Customers occupy Portuguese investment bank

8th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

By nightfall, the protesters vowed not to leave the premises until the bank's management resigns en masse.

Lisbon -- Some 100 customers of a Portuguese investment bank that is threatened with bankruptcy occupied its offices Thursday, demanding the return of their savings.

By nightfall, after a fruitless hour of video conferencing with executives of Banco Privado Portugues, the protesters vowed not to leave the premises until the bank's management resigns en masse, local news media said.

They also appealed to the Portuguese government to intervene, after writing a letter to Prime Minister Jose Socrates reminding him of a pledge made in November by his finance minister that "no Portuguese will lose his savings".

In a statement, the bank -- which Monday suspended all payments -- said it was doing all it could "to find the best solution," while at the same time appealing for "the swift liberation of the premises".

The first protesters entered via a bank door, and were joined by more as the day rolled on.

Last December, six Portuguese financial institutions agreed to lend 450 million euros to Banco Privado Portugues, guaranteed by the government, but since then the bank's situation has not improved.

On Monday, its board of directors announced the suspension of payments in order "to protect customers having guaranteed capital deposits from an eventual bankruptcy of the bank".

It would do so, it added, until the Bank of Portugal responds to a restructuring plan and determines the fate of the bank that reported a loss of 800 million euros at the end of last year.

Banco Privado Portugues, which manages two billion euros in assets for 3,000 customers, is suspected of financial irregularities by the central bank and security authorities.

Late on Thursday, the union representing Portugal's banking staff appealed to the government to step in, arguing that the bank's failure could deal a blow to "the image, confidence and reputation" of the nation's banking industry.

Last November, the government nationalised another bank, Banco Portugues de Negocios, that was on the brink of bankruptcy triggered by the global financial crisis.

Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said at the time that, with the exception of that bank, no bank in Portugal had cash problems.


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