Spanish banker Miguel Blesa found dead on country estate

MADRID—A Spanish banker whose brushes with the law and extravagant hunting trips came to symbolize the excesses of the country’s economic boom has been found dead on a country estate, a family member said on Wednesday.

The body of Miguel Blesa, former head of the ill-fated Madrid-based savings bank Caja Madrid, had a shotgun wound in the chest, said the relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The estate was in the southern province of Cordoba.

A spokesman for Andalusian emergency services confirmed a body had been found, but would not give an identity. Blesa’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Blesa was sentenced in February to six years in jail over a scandal involving the widespread misuse of company credit cards while at the bank’s helm. He had appealed against the conviction.

He chaired the bank from 1996 to 2010, a period coinciding with an economic boom followed by devastating bust in Spain.

Blesa, and other top bankers such as former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato, came to symbolize the disconnection of Spain’s elite from ordinary citizens during the financial crisis, which was marred by one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.

Leaked pictures to the press of Blesa on exotic hunting trips in 2013, at the height of Spain’s recession, caused uproar as they showed him posing with a rifle next to the corpses of various recently-shot animals, including a bear, a lion, an oryx, a hippopotamus and the heads of two water buffalo.

Blesa oversaw Caja Madrid when, along with other savings banks, it moved from the traditional role of providing deposit accounts and small business loans to huge mortgage lending and marketing complex financial instruments during a property boom.

Caja Madrid was merged with six other savings banks in 2010 to form the ill-fated lender Bankia.

However, the legacy of Caja Madrid and the other savings banks’ huge mortgage lending meant massive holes in the merged entity’s balance sheet. Bankia was bailed out in 2012 in Spain’s biggest ever bank rescue.

Blesa also came under judicial investigation in two other cases, including Caja Madrid’s controversial, loss-making acquisition of City National Bank of Florida in 2008 for which he spent two weeks in custody in 2013 before being set free.