NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A group of Argentine investors who refused to take part in their country’s debt restructurings spoke in New York on Tuesday about how they feel betrayed and mistreated by their government, which is fighting U.S. court orders to pay the holdouts.
Argentina defaulted on $100 billion of foreign debt in 2002, and holdout creditors have won several billion dollars worth of judgments in U.S. courts but have collected almost nothing due to sovereign immunity laws.
About 92 percent of creditors received between 25 percent and 29 percent on the dollar when bond swaps were carried out. Holdout creditors still own roughly $11 billion in defaulted paper, according to private estimates.
“I invested most of my savings in Argentine bonds because I am Argentinian. I preferred to buy Argentine bonds because I believe in my country,” said Raul Roveda, a retired chemical engineer.
Roveda, 68, said he did not take part in the debt swaps in 2005 and 2010 because he would have received only 16 percent of his capital back.
“Forget about all the interest. It was a ridiculous figure,” Roveda said.
Argentina is seeking to have the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York overturn a finding in November that was in favor of the holdout creditors.
A court showdown is set for Feb. 27.
The group of 14 Argentines and one Uruguayan bemoaned the government’s refusal to pay them, despite rulings in their favor both in U.S. and Argentine courts.
Oscar Secco, a 79-year-old retired oil executive who had an Argentine flag stuck in the lapel of his sports coat, said he wanted the government to abide by the law and to act civilized.
“I want my country to be orderly. I want the government to behave,” said Secco, who bought about $600,000 of bonds in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez refers to investors who refused to enter the restructurings as “vultures,” because hedge funds often buy distressed or defaulted debt and then sue in the courts to get paid in full.
Maria Teresa Munoz, 76, said she invested both savings and her severance from a Swiss company, where she had worked for 42 years as a bilingual secretary, when it left Argentina in 1998.
Munoz said she couldn’t afford proper care when her mother became ill, even though both had pensions.
“It was a very hard time for both of us,” said Munoz, adding she had tried to “hide our difficulties” from her mother.
She regretted having bought Argentine debt, but she had dreamed of having a good retirement.
“I want my money back. I don’t want to be a burden on others. I hope God helps us,” Munoz said.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina two months ago to deposit $1.33 billion to pay the creditors, who are led by NML Capital Ltd, part of a firm run by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and the Aurelius Capital Management funds.
The number of individual holdouts is unknown. Two in the group traveling to New York are part of 13 Argentines who stand to receive about $900,000 if Griesa’s order is fulfilled, a lawyer at the news conference said.
The others on the trip, which was paid for by American Task Force Argentina, a lobby for the holdout creditors, are part of other complaints.