The end of the BBVA case is complicated after the chief legal officer refuses to testify

María Jesús Arribas, BBVA’s head of legal services, refused to testify This Friday in the National Court is holding the termination of the case open to appointment by the Retired Commissioner Bank José Manuel Viareggio, between 2004 and 2017. The last agreed extension of this investigation expires on July 29 and the judge has to decide If it leads to extending the instruction time again or closing the casethat started nearly five years ago.

Arribas’ brief appearance before Judge Manuel Garcia Castellón after not answering any questions, claiming that she is protected by a duty of professional secrecy as a lawyer for the financial institution, ended with a notification from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor that she reserves the right to ask to testify again in the future.

It will depend on what the Criminal Chamber of the National Court determines, which has yet to be resolved The appeal filed by the BBVA against Arribas’ recall and that he would have to explain to what extent the legal head of the company could evade questioning as a witness, a condition which required answering all questions and telling the truth.

As indicated by the legal sources for five daysThe fact of having to wait to see whether or not the criminal chamber endorses this key statement of the investigation opens the door for the fight against corruption to urge the investigating judge Manuel Garcia Castellón to agree to a new extension of the investigations. If the Chamber gives the go-ahead to question the Chief Legal Officer, her deposition may lead to the exercise of new investigative procedures, which would only be possible if the case remained open.

opposing positions

BBVA argued in its appeal that Arribas’ requirement as an “inside attorney” and her participation in the defense team of the entity, accused in this case as a legal person, precluded her from testifying, as the bank’s professional confidentiality and right of defense would be violated.

On the other hand, he denounced that the real reason behind the Anti-Corruption Authority’s desire to question Ariba is control he Forensic Medicine that the BBVA’s external lawyers, with whom the Legal Director has a close relationship because of her position, are commissioned To purify the internal responsibilities of the work of Villarejo. Both the prosecution and some of those who were investigated cautioned that the documentation provided in the case summary is not complete.

In response, the Anti-Corruption Authority rejected this thesis and confirmed it, later Forensic MedicineArribas learned about the contracts with Villarejo before the investigation began and during his tenure as number 2 in the division he now manages. Thus, it was suggested that if the Head of the Legal Department of the BBVA could not testify, Instead, the head of the bank, Carlos Torres, should be citedHe, as indicated, also has knowledge of the facts and is not protected by any right to protect the business of attorneys.

“The Board of Directors has unanimously agreed to authorize the President, Carlos Torres Vila, and the Director of Legal Services, María Jesús Arribas de Paz, so that either of them may proceed unobtrusively and jointly appoint the person to represent the bank in this case in the best interest of the entity. He is delegation as a result, and it can be inferred (and the reason will be explained in detail) from the high degree of knowledge of what happened with Cenyt that Carlos Torres Vila and María Jesús Arribas de Paz had. We cannot share that It is implied to be part of the ‘defence team’ because if the execution of the delegation was carried out by Carlos Torres Villa, would he be part of the defense team? Or, in such a case, would he have to be called because he is not a lawyer given the impossibility of his subordinate”.

Prosecutors outlined this position on July 14 in a letter, though it was released only a day before Arribas was due to appear. In any case, this approach did not exert any pressure and the global legal director refused to respond to any question from the Public Prosecution Office and the rest of the accusations and defenses of the company’s former executives.

Judge Manuel Garcia Castellón granted the anti-corruption request to subpoena dozens of BBVA employees, including Arribas, to testify.To show that it is linked to a series of emails related to Villarejo payments and contracts, in which they appear as senders or receivers.

Support from the school and without exemption

The head of the BBVA’s legal department assured the judge that she had consulted with the bar if she could make use of her right not to testify. BBVA sources confirmed that the foundation’s response was: “The claimant is obligated to maintain professional secrecy, an obligation that does not fall on her being the company’s internal attorney.”

Faced with this situation, the examining magistrate gave María Jesús Arribas the opportunity to answer only the questions she considered appropriate, although the witness remained firm in her standards and refused all questions.

For its part, the defense of the former head of Sacyr Vallehermoso Luis del Rivero, who appeared as a victim of Villarejo’s espionage, questioned Arribas’ position and asked him if, according to the lawyers’ law, he had asked the BBVA for a concession to avoid testifying on issues that could affect the bank. The executive branch admitted that it did not seek such express permission.

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