MANAGUA – Central Bank President Antenor Rosales said the government is in the process of renegotiating the country’s $48 million debt it accrued in a controversial 2001 private bank bailout and plans to reach an agreement by next April.
Rosales told The Nica Times last week that he and other government officials have already had three working sessions with bank officials as part of debt renegotiations.
Nicaragua’s first debt payment, of $20.6 million, is due next April.
“We have to have an answer by April 2008, because we have to make our first payment,” he said.
The 2001 bailout was the government’s response to the collapse of four banks, which shocked Nicaragua’s finance sector. During the scare, the Nicaraguan government issued controversial bond-like Negotiable Investment Certificates, or CENIs, to cover the collapse of the private banks at the end of President Arnoldo Alemán’s administration (NT, Aug. 11, 2006).
The investigation alleges criminal involvement by ex-Finance Minister and opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre, as well as former Central Bank President Mario Alonso and four other former Central Bank directors, including Sandinista banker Silvio Conrado, who now represents the Ortega administration before the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).
The Government Prosecutor’s Office is now conducting its own investigation to determine whether to pursue criminal charges against the six men.
According to the Comptroller’s investigation, the Central Bank’s board of directors sold the certificates for less than their market value, and then increased the interest rates to benefit the major purchaser, Bancentro, a bank in which Montealegre had been a major stockholder (NT, Sept. 21).