MADRID - A Spanish court opened a fraud case against former executives of lender Bankia on Wednesday amid mounting public anger against the state-rescued bank.

The lawsuit was brought by one of Spain's smaller political parties and accuses 33 officials, including former chairman Rodrigo Rato, of fraud, price-fixing and falsifying accounts.

The high court demands that Mr Rato and the other executives appear in person, and that former Bank of Spain governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez appears as a witness.

The government took over Bankia in May after it became clear the bank could not cope with losses stemming from indiscriminate lending during a property boom that crashed four years ago. The bail-out forced Spain to seek a European rescue package.

Bankia holds more than 10% of Spanish deposits and is the biggest bank likely to receive a capital injection when the European bail-out funds materialise later this year. Under new management, the bank has requested a ?19bn bail-out.

Bankia's rescue, and the subsequent heavy losses for thousands of retail investors who took part in a stock-market flotation of the bank last year, has angered Spaniards who are suffering from swingeing government spending cuts.

Protesters have staged street demonstrations in their thousands, banging pots and pans and blowing whistles outside bank branches.

Small-scale investors vented their fury at Bankia's new head, Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, at a shareholder meeting last week.

Reuters