Fugitive Portuguese banker Joao Rendeiro arrested in South Africa

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Dec. 11 (UPI) — Fugitive Portuguese banker Joao Rendeiro, who was sentenced to more than five years in connection with the collapse of the Portuguese Private Bank, was arrested Saturday, police said.

Portugal’s Judiciary Police announced that Rendeiro was taken into custody on an international warrant after fleeing the country in September.

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Judiciary Police Director Luís Neves said at news conference in Lisbon the fugitive financier was arrested in South Africa, CNN and the Portuguese newspaper Publico reported.

Neves said Rendeiro was taken into custody with the help of South African police, adding that he had been “living in the wealthiest area of Johannesburg” while on the lam, including staying at “five-star hotels.”

“He was being very careful,” Neves also said. “He was surprised because he wasn’t expecting it.”

Rendeiro has been sentenced three times in connection with the collapse of the Portuguese Private Bank, which provided private banking, corporate advice and private equity services to mostly wealthy clients. The bank ran into severe financing difficulties during the 2008 financial crisis and went into liquidation two years later.

In 2018, Rendeiro, the bank’s former chairman, was sentenced to five years and eight months for computer and document forgery; in May 2021, he drew a term of 10 years for tax fraud, breach of confidence and money laundering; and in September he was sentenced to more than three years for fraud.

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The former banker fled the country after his initial sentence became final in September.

Judiciary Police did not reveal where in South Africa Rendeiro was detained, but indicated it was “far from Pretoria and Johannesburg.”

South African National Police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told the Lusa press agency Rendeiro was apprehended near Durban and will appear in that city’s Magistrates’ Court on Monday as part of an extradition process.

Rendeiro’s wife told authorities last month her husband was in hiding in South Africa. The banker said in an interview with CNN Portugal last month that he would not return to Portugal on his own unless he was cleared of what he called the unfair charges against him or was pardoned by Portugal’s president.