Tue, Apr 22, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Spanish man swindled banks to fight capitalism

ANTI-CAPITALIST:A former tennis coach who borrowed money to fund social activism has no intention of paying back 500,000 euros in loans

The Guardian, MADRID

They call him the Robin Hood of the banks, a man who took out dozens of loans worth almost half a million euros (US$690,900) with no intention of ever paying them back. Instead, Enric Duran farmed the money out to projects that created and promoted alternatives to capitalism.

After 14 months in hiding, Duran is unapologetic even though his activities could land him in jail.

“I’m proud of this action,” Duran said in an interview by Skype from an undisclosed location.

The money had created opportunities, he said.

“It generated a movement that allowed us to push forward with the construction of alternatives. And it allowed us to build a powerful network that groups together these initiatives,” he added.

From 2006 to 2008, Duran took out 68 loans from 39 banks in Spain. He farmed the money out to social activists, funding speaking tours against capitalism and TV cameras for a media network.

“I saw that on one side, these social movements were building alternatives, but that they lacked resources and communication capacities,” Duran said. “Meanwhile, our reliance on perpetual growth was creating a system that created money out of nothing.”

The loans he swindled from banks were his way of regulating and denouncing this situation, he said. He started slowly.

“I filled out a few credit applications with my real details. They denied me, but I just wanted to get a feel for what they were asking for,” Duran said.

From there, the former table-tennis coach began to weave an intricate web of accounts, payments and transfers.

“I was learning constantly,” he said.

By the summer of 2007, he had discovered how to make the system work, applying for loans under the name of a false television production company.

“Then I managed to get a lot,” 492,000 euros, to be exact, he said.

Duran was arrested in Spain in 2009, on charges brought by six of the 39 banks that had lent him money. He spent two months in prison before being bailed for 50,000 euros.

In February last year, facing up to eight years in prison, he decided to flee rather than stand trial.

“I don’t see legitimacy in a judicial system based on authority, because I don’t recognize its authority,” he said.

His actions, he said, were at the vanguard of a worldwide debate. The timing pushed the anti-capitalist movement into the light, just as many Spaniards were seeking alternatives to a system that had wreaked havoc on their lives.

The anti-capitalist movement has grown from a fringe movement to one supported by thousands of Spaniards, he said, evidenced by the about 70 social currencies in use across the country.

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