November 20, 2019 / 8:13 PM / 21 days ago

Spain's BBVA tells court it bears no responsibility for alleged spying

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s BBVA (BBVA.MC) on Wednesday told the country’s High Court it bore no responsibility for alleged spying 15 years ago, and which is being investigated in a case which has roiled Spain’s corporate sector.

News websites El Confidencial and Moncloa.com reported in January that Spain’s second-biggest bank had hired Grupo Cenyt, a security firm belonging to a former police commissioner Jose Manuel Villarejo, to investigate officials of construction company Sacyr (SCYR.MC) as part of efforts to stop a takeover bid by the company in 2004.

Villarejo was arrested in 2017 as part of a separate investigation and is in prison pending trial over allegations of money laundering and bribing public officials.

Adolfo Fraguas, BBVA’s representative, “responded to all the questions posed by the judge and the prosecution and pleaded that the bank bears no responsibility for the facts under investigation,” the bank said in a statement.

The bank, which has acknowledged that the case has damaged its reputation without impacting its business, said it would fully cooperate with judicial authorities in the probe and continue its court testimony at a later date.

The bank has officially acknowledged that it hired Grupo Cenyt. But BBVA, which is being investigated on offences of bribery, disclosure of secrets and corruption in business and is also conducting its own probe, has said it had not found any evidence of spying.

On Wednesday, BBVA said it had provided the judicial authorities with documents since the onset of the case, “proactively sharing the information obtained from the (internal) forensic investigation, carried out by law firms Garrigues, Uria Menendez and the consultancy company PwC”.

Last week, Spain’s High Court placed the former chairman of BBVA, Francisco Gonzalez, under investigation as part of the probe.

The investigating judge Manuel García-Castellon has expanded his investigation to a dozen former or current BBVA employees. None belong to the bank’s current board.

Reporting By Jesús Aguado; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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