South African authorities have arrested a convicted Portuguese banker that had fled from the country in mid-September.
“We first want to thank South African police authorities,” Portugal’s Judiciary Police director Luís Neves said, as he announced that banker João Rendeiro had been captured, on Saturday morning.
Neves said the 69-year-old banker was arrested “very far” from Johannesburg, where he was living, but wouldn’t disclose the exact location. South African Police spokesman Vishnu Naidu has since confirmed the arrest took place in Durban.
“João Rendeiro was living in the wealthiest area of Johannesburg, that was his usual safe haven, in five star hotels, but then there were other places where he’d move to, in an effort to hamper this arrest,” Neves explained. “He was being very careful.
“He was surprised because he wasn’t expecting it,” Neves also said.
Rendeiro, the former President of the Portuguese Private Bank (BPP), an institution that specialized on the management of private fortunes, was convicted of 16 crimes in three separate cases, all related to the BPP’s collapse in 2010.
He was sentenced to three years and six months in jail for fraud; five years and eight months for computer and document forgery; and he was also sentenced to 10 years in jail for tax evasion and money laundering.
While awaiting sentencing, he told Portuguese courts he would be traveling to the United Kingdom, between September 12 to 30. There, he announced in a blog post that he would not be returning to Portugal.
“Throughout the cases in which I have been accused I made several visits abroad, always communicating that fact to the respective processes. In every occasion, I returned to Portugal. This time, I don’t intend to go back,” Rendeiro wrote. “It is a tough decision, made after profound reflection.”
Portuguese authorities issued European and international arrest warrants soon after and on Saturday, Neves said police had been tracking him since he left the UK.
“We detected the exit from the United Kingdom of this wanted person on September 14 and we have information about where he went through before reaching the Republic of South Africa,” he said on Saturday.
“João Rendeiro entered South Africa on September 18,” Neves went on to say, adding they’ve known his whereabouts for quite some time. “Soon after we established contact with our [South African] colleagues through international cooperation channels.”
While he was on the run, Rendeiro spoke to CNN affiliate, CNN Portugal, from an undisclosed location and using encryption software.
“I am only coming back if I am exonerated or if I am granted a pardon,” he said.
“I am a ‘weak’ powerful,” he went on to say, criticizing Portuguese justice for the double standard of not persecuting other bankers which had done far worse than he had.
Portuguese authorities say they will now seek Rendeiro’s extradition to Portugal and have asked that South African authorities consider him a serious flight risk while those proceedings are ongoing.