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A multi-million euro demand against Spain for the malignant action by the so-called "patriotic police" of the Popular Party (PP). The brothers Higini and Ramon Cierco, owners of Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), are demanding that the Bank of Spain compensate them with a total of 141 million euros for bringing about the liquidation of Banco Madrid, which they owned. The Bank of Spain took this action on the grounds of alleged money laundering irregularities, which have been denied by the courts. However, the intervention in the bank also took place at the same time as the bank directors were receiving pressure from the PP's patriotic police to reveal if key Catalan politicians had accounts in Andorra and thus tarnish the pro-independence cause - a part of the Operation Catalonia dirty war.

A screenshot had been illegally obtained of the BPA account in Andorra held by the family of the former Catalan president, Jordi Pujol - an account he had not declared to the Spanish treasury and attributes to a inheritance that grandfather Florenci Pujol left to the president's wife, Marta Ferrussola, and their seven children. This money, about four million euros, was initially in Banca Reig, which became Andbank and in 2010 invited the Pujol family to leave the bank; the sum went to the BPA. In response to developments, president Pujol confessed to the existence of the hidden money in July 2014. The denouement of the operation against BPA occurred in March 2015 when the Spanish state warned the US Treasury of a supposed risk posed by the Andorran bank, in turn affecting Banco Madrid, which the BPA had acquired in 2010.

No irregularities

The lawsuit, filed in an administrative disputes chamber of Spain's National Audience, details in 149 pages all the difficulties experienced by the bank, and blames the Bank of Spain for causing a run on funds (20% of the total), when the intervention was announced, which led to the liquidation and bankruptcy of the bank, for which Spanish public prosecutors wanted the financial institution to be declared "guilty". But the judge ruled that out and indicated that, rather, it was "fortuitous" in the absence of government action. The intervention in Banco Madrid caused many clients to be left with their accounts blocked. Marta Ferrusola and three of her children had paid in 1.3 million euros to legalize and pay the fines to the Spanish treasury, and with the intervention they were only able to recover 100,000 euros each - like the rest of the bank clients.


The Bank of Spain rejected the massive claim made, and now the Cierco brothers (a total of four partners) are demanding the National Audience grant it. "The actions of the Bank of Spain caused them serious and illegal asset damages that they must not bear," affirms their lawyer, Jesús Rodríguez Márquez, maintaining that there is no statute of limitations on the matter as the criminal proceedings are continuing.

The claim sets out that in 2015, when the matter began, BPA was an Andorran bank focused on private activity operating in six countries (Andorra, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Panama and Uruguay), that its total assets were worth 1,985 million euros and its solvency ratio, according to the Basel III guidelines, was 15.38%. For its part, Banco Madrid was a private entity specializing in the management of large assets, owned by BPA, had about 15,000 customers, bad debt of less than 2%, and 695 million in deposits. The collapse of the bank was triggered, says the document, by the decision of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN") of the United States Treasury Department because it considered BPA to be "a foreign financial institution which was a first-priority concern due to money laundering." It adds that in March 2015, the Bank of Spain agreed to financial intervention in Banco Madrid, after the Andorran National Institute of Finance (INAF) had agreed to intervention in the parent company.

The Cierco family states that the intervention and subsequent liquidation of Banco Madrid took place despite the fact that its liquidity and solvency situation were "much higher than the legal minimums required", and despite the fact that "more proportionate and less onerous measures" could have been applied. The argument adds that four and six years later, all the judicial and administrative proceedings initiated in relation to the breach of obligations in the matter of money laundering by Banco Madrid have concluded “without the existence of any illicit sum having being declared by its administrators”. It even adds that the administrative procedure initiated by SEPBLAC ended "with a waiver" with respect to all of the bank administrators. The latest resolution is dated August 18th, 2021.

For all of this, the owners of the defunct Andorran bank have taken out a suit against the Spanish state. The document explains that the amount claimed by each of the four partners has been calculated by multiplying the percentage holding of each of the members of Banco Madrid by both 100% of its theoretical book value (129 million euros) and 100% of the valuation obtained by the bank valuer (187 million). Thus, there are four claims of 3,932,000 euros and one of 129,805,000 euros.

Rajoy in Andorra

In Spain, for now, nothing connected to Operation Catalonia has been allowed to go to trial. Last November, the Drets legal body and the Andorran Institute of Human Rights (IDH) asked an Andorran judge to investigate the case of the alleged extortion of Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), in the context of Operation Catalonia, citing as defendants Mariano Rajoy, Cristóbal Montoro and Jorge Fernández Díaz as well as other members of the former interior ministry. In the event that they do not appear to testify, it demands that international arrest warrants be issued through Interpol.

Drets and the IDH want the judiciary to determine what role the Spanish and Andorran governments played in the liquidation of BPA and the pressure to access bank accounts which it claimed belonged to the Pujol family, Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras. In October 2020, the judge admitted the complaint for alleged forgery of documents and coercion of constitutional bodies against the former Spanish prime minister. Former interior minister Fernández Díaz is also considered the perpetrator of offences of threats, coercion, extortion and blackmail, along with former interior secretary Francisco Martínez Vázquez and former National Police director general Ignacio Cosidó.

Main photo: former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, in his appearance for the PP's Operation Kitchen / Europa Press