Spanish lender Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA is broadening an investigation into media reports that the bank had hired private investigators to spy on executives and government officials who favored a takeover attempt on the bank in 2004, according to a letter sent by BBVA's chairman to the bank's employees on Jan. 14.
In the letter, Carlos Torres, who took up the bank's chairmanship at the end of 2018, said that BBVA was "scandalized" by the reports, which appeared on websites El Confidencial and Moncloa.com on Jan. 9. According to El Confidencial, BBVA paid €500,000 in 2004 to a private investigation company, run by a former police chief who is now in prison, to investigate executives of Sacyr SA a construction company that wanted to take over BBVA and a government official. Sacyr reportedly wanted to take a stake in BBVA and oust then Chairman Francisco Gonzalez.
In his letter, Torres reiterated a Jan. 10 statement by the bank that it had, in June 2018, opened "an investigation into the hiring and services rendered" by the private security company, called Grupo Cenyt.
He confirmed the security company had provided services to the bank, but there was no evidence of monitoring of communications as published in several news articles.
"In light of what has now been published, we have broadened the scope of the investigation," Torres said in his letter.
On Jan. 10, BBVA also said it had hired a law firm to conduct an independent review in conjunction with its own investigation.
"Should any irregularities be detected during these reviews, BBVA will adopt the pertinent internal measures and take the appropriate legal actions and, as always, will fully cooperate with law authorities," the bank said in a statement.
On Jan. 14, El Confidencial reported that Gonzalez oversaw the spying mission and requested updates every 10 days.