BBVA charged with alleged espionage in Spain
A judge of the Spanish National Court on Monday charged the BBVA banking group as a legal entity for the crimes of bribery, discovery, and disclosure of secrets and corruption in business.
The magistrate agreed to the accusation of BBVA at the request of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office within the case investigating the espionage allegedly commissioned by the previous management of the bank to a former Spanish police chief, the former commissioner José Villarejo, confirmed to EFE legal sources.
Villarejo, who was one of the most important police chiefs in Spain, has been in pretrial detention since November 2017, accused of bribery, money laundering and belonging to a criminal gang for various offenses.
The case investigates BBVA's relationship with Cenyt, a Villarejo company that was allegedly responsible for spying on some 15,000 phone calls from politicians, including members of the Spanish government, journalists, bankers, and businessmen, according to the investigation.
The investigation believes that this relationship, whereby BBVA contracted Cenyt's services for five million euros, began in 2004, when Sacyr, a Spanish construction, and infrastructure management group, began a move to take control of the banking group, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
These investigations in the Villarejo case led to the resignation in March of Francisco González as honorary chairman of BBVA after he left the bank in December.
The Public Prosecutor's Office requested the bank's indictment last week after analyzing the documentation seized in the records made in November 2017 and that provided by BBVA.
Documents that, in the opinion of the Public Prosecutor's Office, would prove that the "illicit" payments to Cenyt "affected several sensitive areas of the bank and various executives of the entity for a prolonged period of time" and were produced while Villarejo was still active in the police force.
Several current and former bank officials are under investigation in this secret case, including former delegate counselor Ángel Cano and former security chief Julio Corrochano, who paid a 300,000 euro bail to keep him out of prison.
BBVA is the second-largest Spanish banking group and has an important presence in Latin America, especially in Mexico, where it is the country's largest financial institution through its subsidiary Bancomer, while it is one of the regional leaders in the sector in the southeastern United States.
It also has important subsidiaries in Argentina (Banco Francés), Colombia and Peru, while it has a smaller presence in Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay and Bolivia.
BBVA increases its profit by 51% in 2018, growth in Mexico and the sale in Chile
Like Santander, its main Spanish competitor, BBVA obtains a large part of its profit outside of Spain, where its net profit grew by 63% thanks in part to a reduction in costs.
The Spanish bank BBVA saw its attributable profit grow by 51% in 2018 thanks to the capital gains on the sale of Chile, the reduction of costs in Spain, the solid growth of the credit business in Mexico and the increase in digital customers, which offset the fall of its results in Turkey due to the depreciation of the lira.
The interest margin, the difference between what the bank charges for loans and pays for deposits, fell by 0.9% to 17,591 million euros, although in the fourth quarter it was up three percent.
Like Santander, its main Spanish competitor, BBVA obtains a large part of its profit outside of Spain, where its net profit grew by 63% thanks in part to a reduction in costs. The CFO said he expects a flat interest margin in the country this year with stable volumes.
The largest contribution to the 4,627 million euros of profit came from its main market, Mexico, where its net result increased by 9% with double-digit growth in its interest margin and similar projections for 2019 when it expects a rise around the 10% in constant euros in 2019.
In the United States, the third market in the generation of results, the profit increased by 51%, supported by tax changes and the increase in digital customers.
On the contrary, in Turkey, the result was reduced by 31% due to the currency effect, although it forecasts that the net margin will remain firm in 2019 in a macro challenging environment and that the bank acknowledged "uncertain".
With good prospects in the Andean countries, Argentina, a small part of its business, subtracted 29 million to the benefit after adjustments for hyperinflation.
With the sale in Chile, which closed in July, BBVA obtained a net capital gain of 633 million euros that boosted the results.
The bank maintained its capital coefficient CET1 "fully loaded" at the 11.34% that had registered to September while the delinquency rate fell to 3.9% from 4.1% in the previous quarter.
The group, which has reached the goal of having 50% of digital customers, reiterated its priority of generating value and announced the proposal of a complementary dividend of 16 cents per share next April, 7% more than the same spills from the previous year.
He reiterated his commitment of a "payout" in cash of between 35 and 40% with two payments per year.
On the stock exchange, BBVA shares rose 1 percent on Friday after the results were published.
Apart from the accounts, at the press conference scheduled at noon, part of the focus will be on the alleged espionage network that the bank and the Audiencia Nacional are investigating and about which the ECB has shown concern.
The CEO of BBVA, Carlos Torres, made the first official statements regarding the scandal of the alleged network of wiretaps ordered by the entity.
"Regarding BBVA's relationship with the Cenyt Group, a thorough and exhaustive investigation has been commissioned and is being carried out by third parties," the bank's president said in a note. "The bank will act with absolute rigor and diligence and, in this sense, it is very important that we let the investigation do its job."
The alleged eavesdropping scheme uncovered by the digital Moncloa.com and Elconfidencial.com would have been carried out between 2004 and 2005 in the framework of a frustrated assault on the shareholding of the bank by the construction company Sacyr.
At that time, the president of BBVA was Francisco González, who last December ceded his position to Torres Vila, although he has since held the honorary presidency.
The bank, which has admitted a multi-year relationship with the Cenyt investigative group, of former commissioner Miguel Villarejo, revealed when the information that has been opened since June 2018 of an investigation into the scandal was published.
In the conference with analysts, the CEO, Onur Genç only reiterated the statements of its president when he was asked about it.