Business World

Monday 26 August 2019

Spanish bank accused of phone taps of politicians

Court case: BBVA, Spain’s second largest bank, is to be investigated over alleged spying
Court case: BBVA, Spain’s second largest bank, is to be investigated over alleged spying

Charlie Devereux

Spain's high court has placed the country's second largest bank under formal investigation as part of a probe into an alleged spying case that dates back to 2004.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) has been placed under formal investigation over the allegations it used a police commissioner to spy on business rivals and politicians.

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Spanish judge Manuel Garcia Castellon accepted the public prosecutor's request to probe the bank for alleged bribery, improper disclosure and corruption in business.

The judge rejected BBVA's request to be treated as an injured party in the case.

Spanish media have reported that, starting in 2004, former chairman Francisco Gonzalez personally instructed former police commissioner Jose Manuel Villarejo, who was moonlighting as a private detective, to tap the phones of people.

They allegedly included the deputy prime minister and economic adviser to a former prime minister, as well as the chief executive of construction company Sacyr SA and an executive at rival Banco Santander.

"The attorney general's office believes that contracts and illicit payments were made by BBVA to the company Cenyt, whose owner was Villarejo, which affected various sensitive areas of the bank and diverse executives within the entity, during a prolonged period of time," the court said.

The bank has confirmed that it hired the agency and said in a statement last week that it forwarded "relevant findings" to the judge from an internal investigation led by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and law firms Garrigues and Uria Menendez that has lasted more than a year.

No one at the national court was immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for BBVA said the bank had no immediate comment when contacted by phone.

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

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