Exclusive: Mexico's ICA files criminal complaint against Deutsche Bank employees - sources

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s ICA has filed a criminal complaint against employees of Deutsche Bank in a bid to prevent the bank from seizing the collateral for a now-defaulted loan to the embattled construction firm, according to three sources close to the matter and a document reviewed by Reuters.

ICA’s previously unreported move to involve government prosecutors in the case, rather than simply pursuing a civil lawsuit, is the latest sign of the company’s fraying relationship with its creditors as it looks for ways to restructure its outsize debt load.

The company defaulted in December after a crash in the peso made its hefty dollar-denominated debt load more expensive. ICA, known for leading major infrastructure projects from airports to highways to dams, has also suffered longer-term pressures as it won fewer mandates.

Deutsche Bank believed it could claim the collateral, made up of shares in airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte (OMA), because a cross-default clause was triggered on the loan when ICA didn’t make a bond interest payment in December.

But in a previously unreported counterstrike, ICA subsidiary Aeroinvest, which holds ICA´s valuable OMA stake, filed a criminal complaint at Mexico City’s public prosecutor’s office on Jan. 7 against three Deutsche Bank Mexico employees after they tried to claim the shares, the document showed.

Though Deutsche is the agent, it was a joint loan with other banks too, the people said. It was not clear how many shares the bank could claim, or how big the loan was.

In Mexico, private individuals can use formal complaints to try to get prosecutors to pursue criminal cases. The sources, who declined to be named as the complaint was not public, said they did not expect the case to go to court.

As a result of the complaint, for alleged “attempted breach of trust,” ICA managed to get an official from the prosecutor’s office to stop Deutsche claiming the collateral.

But on Jan. 18, public prosecutors overturned that ruling, the document showed. It was not immediately clear whether Deutsche Bank could now sell the shares.

“We are currently in litigation in Mexico in connection with enforcement of our rights to liquidate collateral on a loan facility following a default,” a Deutsche Bank press official said in a statement.

“We are confident that our personnel have acted appropriately in enforcing our legal rights.”

A spokeswoman for ICA declined to comment. A spokesman in Mexico City’s public prosecutor’s office said it could not give out information.

Banco Santander’s Mexico unit this month sold more than 30 million shares in OMA which were part of an equity swap with ICA that it exercised early after the construction firm´s December default.

Additional reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Christian Plumb and Meredith Mazzilli