More than 40 million euros in debts, works of art and hundreds of other assets seized and waiting to be sold, in addition to properties that were the subject of suspicious deals and it is not known who they really belong to. A year after the death of João Rendeiro, Justice has not yet determined the final value or destination of the inheritance of the founder of BPP, already renounced by his widow, Maria de Jesus Rendeiro, who continues to be investigated for various crimes.
Precisely a year ago, João Rendeiro was found dead in the cell he shared with dozens of inmates at Westville Prison, in South Africa. The 69-year-old former banker spent three months on the run and five months in detention for refusing to be extradited. He committed suicide in the early hours of May 13, 2022 and kept the promise that he would never serve time in Portugal.
Rendeiro’s death dictated the extinction of criminal responsibility, but civil responsibility remains active. The widow and sole heiress renounced her inheritance and, therefore, any responsibility for the remaining debts. Rendeiro’s remaining assets should be used to meet established debts. However, a year after his death, the balance still remains unaccounted for.
Condemned to pay 40 million to BPP, State and an injured party
In the three cases in which he was convicted, João Rendeiro would have to pay more than 40 million euros to the BPP liquidation commission, to an injured party and to the State. To this value are added several fines imposed by banking regulators due to irregularities at BPP. Many millions of euros, plus interest, which are unlikely to be covered by the assets seized from the former banker.
Last month, hundreds of articles and works of art, as well as a millionaire 14-room mansion at Quinta Patino, in Cascais, remained in the custody of the State. The most likely destination should be its sale at auction to try to cover at least part of the debts left by Rendeiro.
Justice will have to decide the destination of the arrested assets
An official source from the Assets Administration Office then confirmed to CNN that the assets in his custody still had no destination. Justice will have to decide what to do with the estate and there has still been no progress.
Equally without progress is the situation of Maria de Jesus Rendeiro, 70 years old, João’s partner for more than half a century. In September last year, the widow abdicated the inheritance. She was left without the goods and also without any responsibility for her husband’s debts. However, she is still not free from Justice.
Widow suspected of multiple crimes
Maria de Jesus is suspected of the crimes of embezzlement, disobedience, money laundering and forgery of documents. In the same case, the couple’s former driver and the father, known as the “King of Taxis”, are accused. So far, there have been no formal charges.
After the banker’s death, the Central Court of Criminal Instruction lifted the house arrest that had been decreed for Maria de Jesus seven months earlier, following the “D’Arte Asas” operation. The judge considered that, with the death of her husband, there was no longer any danger of fleeing, but the widow was prohibited from leaving the country and from contacting the other defendants and obliged to make periodic presentations to the authorities.
The investigation into the possible diversion and forgery of works of art seized from her husband in 2010 and of which she was the trustee is still ongoing. At least more than a dozen assets in her custody will have disappeared. It is suspected that some of those that were still in her house, in Cascais, are forgeries.
Former driver and “King of Taxis” are also defendants
Also accused in this process are Florêncio de Almeida, president of ANTRAL – National Association of Road Transport in Light Cars, and his son, of the same name, former driver of the Rendeiro couple. At issue will be the suspicion of money laundering through the simulation of real estate deals with the “King of Taxis” and his son.
In 2015, João Rendeiro transferred ownership of an apartment in Campo de Ourique to Florêncio (father), supposedly for 500 thousand euros. There is no record of any financial movement. Three years later, the father gave it to his son who would sell it for 1.5 million euros. With the money he bought a property in Alentejo and a luxury apartment at Quinta Patino, in Cascais, an exclusive condominium where the Rendeiro couple’s villa is also located.
Bought 1.1 million house and gave usufruct to former boss
The former driver will have paid 1.1 million euros for the apartment, having then transferred it under a usufruct regime for 15 years to Maria de Jesus, where she resided and was even placed under house arrest.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office believes that father and son acted as figureheads with the aim of hiding the couple’s assets from Justice. As JN found out, the investigation of these signs is still ongoing, but no accusation has yet been made.
Collapse of the “Bank of the Rich” was 13 years ago
In April 2010, the collapse of the bank he had founded in 1996 and its consequent resolution caused losses of hundreds of millions of euros and injured thousands of customers. João Rendeiro was the target of several lawsuits and claims for civil compensation. In court it was proved that he wrongfully withdrew more than 13 million euros from BPP and masked the bank’s accounts.
The founder of the BPP was sentenced to effective prison terms in three different cases: in 2018, to five years and eight months in prison for computer forgery and forgery of documents; in May 2021 to ten years in prison for qualified tax fraud, qualified breach of trust and money laundering and, in September 2021, to three and a half years for fraud.
After this last sentence, Rendeiro announced, from London, where he had gone with the knowledge of the court that he would not return to Portugal. The court gave him three days to return. He never came back.
Escape lasted only three months
During the three months on the run, the former banker will have passed through several countries and even gave an interview to a channel and a Portuguese newspaper where he said he was “wronged” and threatened to sue the State for 30 million euros.
He said that he had not escaped that he was exercising “a right of resistance in the face of unjust justice”. He also guaranteed that he led an “absolutely” normal life and that he would only return to Portugal if “there was a pardon from the President”.
Detained in a luxury hotel in Durban
Less than three weeks after the fateful interview, on December 10, 2021, João Rendeiro was arrested at a luxury hotel in Durban, on the east coast of South Africa. Although he did everything not to be found, the Judiciary Police had located him in that country for more than a month and he had been under surveillance by the local authorities for several days. João Rendeiro contested the request for extradition to Portugal.
Rendeiro then guaranteed that he would never return to Portugal to serve time. His lawyer complained about the poor conditions in the prison and that Rendeiro was being extorted.
Autopsies rule out the existence of crime
He was detained for five months. He was found hanged in the cell’s bathroom in the early hours of May 13. Two autopsies, one in South Africa and another in Portugal, ruled out the existence of crime.
João Rendeiro, son of a modest shoemaker from Campo de Ourique who managed to become a banker for the rich, died on the other side of the world, alone and in disgrace. He opted for one final escape rather than face the consequences of his actions.