The chairman of BBVA, Carlos Torres Vila, testifies this Monday as a witness before the judge of the Audiencia Nacional, Manuel García Castellón, in the case investigating the bank’s relationship with companies linked to former police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo.
The case concerns the investigations, whose investigation has been extended until January 2024, into the bank’s alleged assignment to Cenyt, a company linked to Villarejo, to find out who was behind the attempted takeover of a stake in BBVA by Sacyr at the end of 2004.
In mid-2019, the judge agreed to charge both BBVA and its former president Francisco González in a case in which other former executives of the bank, such as the bank’s former director of risk Antonio Béjar and former head of security Julio Corrochano, were already under investigation.
Judge García Castellón wonders what happened internally at the bank after 2018 in relation to Cenyt
In his summons, the magistrate highlighted “the need to know what happened internally at BBVA in the phase after June 2018, which is of particular importance in the present proceedings”.
The document indicated, in relation to the legal entity BBVA, that it is “especially relevant” to know whether the corporate control mechanisms worked, in order to determine the existence of an effective culture of regulatory compliance, in order to clarify its criminal liability.
BBVA appealed the witness statement of the director of the bank’s legal services, María Jesús Arribas, arguing that she was part of BBVA’s defence team, and that she had intervened, according to emails, from May 2018, “after the period in which BBVA hired Cenyt”.
For this reason, García Castellón now understands that “not being possible to obtain a statement from María Jesús Arribas”, who was the person who reported to the Committee what was being done in the entity, “it is necessary to summon Torres Vila as a witness, in order to be able to determine the existence of a true culture of regulatory compliance in the entity that could exempt it from criminal liability”.
Anticorrupción believes that BBVA’s chairman, Carlos Torres, had a high degree of knowledge of the bank’s relations with ex-commissioner Villarejo.
Last July, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office presented a document in which it highlighted Torres Vila’s “high degree of knowledge” of the relationship between the bank and Cenyt, a company linked to the ex-commissioner, and alluded to the possibility that he might testify in the case.
The Prosecutor’s Office focused on the role played by Torres Vila, who was part of a select committee that in October 2018 registered “a strictly confidential project on the actions to verify BBVA’s relationship with the company Cenyt”.
Judge García Castellón is investigating operation “Trampa”, the ninth separate piece of the “Villarejo case” which deals with the alleged espionage services to politicians, businessmen and journalists that the bank had commissioned from the ex-commissioner since 2004, when the construction company Sacyr began, unsuccessfully, a move to try to take control of the entity.