Juan Asúa, main advisor to the current president of BBVA, Carlos Torres, has distanced himself this Wednesday at the National Court from all the work that the retired commissioner José Manuel Villarejo did for years for the bank, as confirmed to EL PAÍS legal sources present in the interrogation. Asúa, who testified as a defendant, has also assured that he only had “superficial” knowledge of the internal investigation that BBVA opened after the scandal broke out and that concluded in a report forensics incorporated in the case, despite the fact that he was in charge of managing it with the Garrigues law firm, entrusting it to the consulting firm PwC. During his statement, the bank manager has avoided pointing out at all times the current head of the entity and his predecessor, Francisco González, the latter charged in the case.
This Wednesday was the second time that Asúa went to testify in the piece of the Villarejo case in which the ties of the police officer with the financial entity are investigated since 2004 and for 13 years. In the first, in November 2019, when the case was still declared secret, the bank manager took advantage of his right not to testify. Now he has answered the questions, but only those raised by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor and his defense attorney. His statement had generated expectations both because of his current position – he is the main adviser to President Torres – and because of the positions he held at BBVA during the years under investigation. Between 2007 and 2012 he was responsible for the Spanish division of the entity and, therefore, above the risk department that in those years commissioned Cenyt, the corporate epicenter of the Villarejo plot, to discover the assets of delinquent clients. He then he was named number two of Francisco González from 2015 until his departure in 2018.
However, Asúa has insisted this Wednesday over and over again that he never knew anything about the work that the retired commissioner did for the entity, and for which he pocketed 10.3 million euros. In the case of investigations into delinquent clients, and for which Villarejo allegedly obtained confidential data from police databases, the manager has insisted that this was not his responsibility and that he was not informed. When the prosecutor has shown him a series of emails about similar orders from the bank to other agencies such as Kroll in which he was listed as one of the recipients, Torres’ adviser has argued that he can receive more than a hundred messages a day in which it appears ‘in copy’, and that in most cases they do not pay attention to them and do not even open them to read their content.
Regarding his role in the management of the internal report that the bank commissioned after the scandal broke out in May 2018 when the first invoices were published that revealed that the financial entity had paid hundreds of thousands of euros to the network of Villarejo companies, the manager has again marked distances. The report, which was delivered to the National High Court last November, concluded that at least 11 directors —including Asúa— participated in the signing of the contracts, the validation of the services and the payments to the Villarejo companies. Torres’ advisor has also disassociated himself from the investigations that the commissioner carried out on Ausbanc and its president, Luis Pineda, or the alleged irregular payment of donations, bonuses and Christmas baskets to members of the State security forces and official institutions. The manager has stated that he never knew any of these facts.
After Asúa, Arturo Sáenz de Buruaga, a former director of BBVA who was part of the team that valued the assets of delinquent customers, has declared, in this case as a witness. His appearance has occurred at the proposal of Antonio Béjar, accused in the case and head of the Real Estate Risk and Recovery Area between 2010 and 2013. Béjar had declared that the bank hired the Villarejo company to locate properties of bank debtors. During his testimony, Sáenz de Buruaga stated that he thought he remembered that they had to lower the value that the police reports assigned to the property that he located because it was usually much higher than the real value. The former director added that, possibly, this occurred because Cenyt charged a percentage of the value of the properties that he helped to intervene, so the higher the amount, the greater the benefit for him. Sáenz de Buruaga also admitted having a meeting with Villarejo’s partner, attorney Rafael Redondo, but said it was “quick.”
The investigation into the commissions from the financial institution to the commissioner —in which twenty people are charged, including Villarejo himself, Francisco González and BBVA as a legal entity— is carried out within one of the pieces opened by the judge in macro summary opened for the allegedly criminal activities of the police officer. The investigations have revealed, until now, a total of 18 commissions from BBVA to the commissioner. To carry them out, Villarejo allegedly illegally accessed “a huge amount of personal data” from police databases, according to reports included in the case.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The magistrate agreed last January to extend the investigation until July 29 to take the missing statements and carry out other pending proceedings, from which “new proceedings could be derived.” This Thursday, three other people are expected to testify before the magistrate, two of them as defendants. These are Nazario Campo, group leader of the BBVA Security team, and Ignacio Pérez Caballero, then director of the bank’s Risk Area. Both are among the 11 directors and former directors of the entity indicated in the internal report prepared by the bank as participants in the signing of the contracts with Villarejo. The third statement will be from a witness, Alejandra Fernández-Chico, a Cenyt employee and daughter of a former high-ranking police officer who has since passed away.