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ECB asks Spanish court for information on BBVA 'spying' case: source

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MADRID (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has asked Spain’s High Court to provide information about a probe into a spying case involving BBVA to evaluate any potential impact on the bank’s governance, a source familiar with the case told Reuters.

In July, BBVA BBVA.MC acknowledged damage to its reputation from allegations that in 2004 it hired Grupo Cenyt, a security firm belonging to a former police commissioner Jose Manuel Villarejo, to investigate officials of construction company Sacyr SCYR.MC and keep eyes on leading politicians.

But the bank, one of Europe’s largest, also said then the allegations had no impact on its business, and its internal investigation had thus far not found any evidence of spying.

The former chairman of BBVA, Francisco Gonzalez, is under investigation as part of the probe, along with Villarejo.

Spain’s High Court could not immediately confirm or deny the information. The ECB declined to comment.

Spanish radio Cadena Ser said the request came after BBVA failed to send any information on the progress of the investigation in response to ECB’s initial request.

In a statement sent to Reuters, BBVA said only that it had communicated to the ECB that Spanish court secrecy laws prevented it from disclosing any details of the case and that the only way to obtain information was directly from the judge.

According to Cadena Ser, the European financial regulator had guaranteed to Judge Manuel Garcia-Castellon that it would keep any information provided completely confidential. The court had not yet responded, it said.

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

Reporting by Belen Carreño and Ashifa Kassam; editing by Andrei Khalip and Nick Macfie

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