July 2, 2019 / 5:23 PM / 4 months ago

Probe into alleged BBVA spying case expands to former CEO - sources

MADRID (Reuters) - A magistrate looking into an alleged spying case at Spanish bank BBVA (BBVA.MC) expanded his investigation on Tuesday to former chief executive Angel Cano, two judicial sources said on Tuesday.

The sources said that Cano, another former BBVA executive, four current BBVA employees and two other people with ties to BBVA were told to appear on July 4 and July 5 before the investigating judge Manuel Garcia-Castellon who is looking into the allegations of active bribery and secret information disclosure.

“These charges are brought forward because the case contains elements of criminal offences,” one of the sources said.

Cano did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while BBVA declined to comment on the testimonies of former executives apart from saying that the judicial probe was making progress.

The former BBVA executives’ testimonies are a major step in a legal investigation into contracts with a jailed ex-police chief, Jose Manuel Villarejo, who newspaper El Pais and other media said the bank hired to spy on top executives of a potential buyer, builder Sacyr (SCYR.MC), in 2004.

The case dates back 15 years, but the latest developments have revived coverage of the allegations in the Spanish media.

In February, the bank said that it had not noticed any impact on its business but said the case could have a “negative reputational or economic impact.”

In March, Francisco Gonzalez temporarily stepped down as honorary chairman of BBVA to avoid any harm to the Spanish bank’s reputation during the inquiry though he has not yet been called to testify in this case.

Cano, who was BBVA’s chief executive from 2009 to 2015, will testify on Thursday.

The bank has officially acknowledged that it hired Grupo Cenyt, a security firm owned by Villarejo who was arrested in 2017 as part of a separate investigation and remains in jail.

Carlos Torres, who replaced Gonzalez as executive chairman in January, has said that Cenyt provided various services to BBVA, but that the bank had found no evidence of spying.

Reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Jane Merriman

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