Former banking exec found dead at private hunting estate

MADRID — Spain’s Civil Guard said Wednesday that a former chairman of one of the country’s largest banks has been found dead with a gunshot wound to the chest at a private hunting estate in southern Spain.

A spokeswoman with the police force said initial inquiries into the death of 69-year-old Miguel Blesa had ruled out a homicide.

The former head of the now-defunct Caja Madrid savings bank was awaiting the result of an appeal to a six-year prison sentence for misusing corporate credit cards issued by Bankia SA, another defunct bank.

Witnesses who were with Blesa at the private property near the southern city of Cordoba told police that the former banker left the group early Wednesday morning saying he was going to take his car.

They described hearing one gunshot moments later, the Civil Guard spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously in line with the police force’s protocol. She said an autopsy would be required to determine the exact cause of death.

Blesa chaired Caja Madrid, one of the country’s top saving banks, between 1996 and 2010. In 2011, the bank was merged with seven other domestic savings institutions to form Bankia, which later had to be nationalized and bailed out for 18 billion euros ($24 billion).

The credit card scandal ran from 1999 to 2012. An estimated 15.5 milion euros ($17.85 million), supposedly meant to cover the cost of bank board members and advisers attending board meetings, had been spent on jewelery, vacations and luxury clothes or just taken out of cash machines, the BBC reports.

Both Blesa and former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato, who chaired Bankia between 2010 and 2012, appealed a March ruling by Spain’s National Court that condemned them to 6 and 4 1/2 years in prison respectively for misusing the saving bank’s corporate credit cards.

Blesa received the highest punishment among 65 defendants found guilty of hiding irregular and undeclared expenses with the cards. The two former bankers were released on bail while the appeal is resolved.

The former banker was also in the midst of a lawsuit involving irregular bonuses during his time at Caja Madrid. In 2013, he was briefly jailed for irregularities in the purchase of shares in the City National Bank of Florida, but a court later acquitted him.

Blesa also appeared in leaked documents of the Mossack Fonseca law firm, which was investigated for managing offshore accounts globally. According to media reports at the time, he used the Panamanian firm in 1989 to create a company in the British Virgin Islands in order to invest in Spain-based companies.