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Spanish court lifts ECB-requested secrecy order on Banco Popular data

A Spanish judge lifted a secrecy order requested by the European Central Bank over financial information on troubled lender Banco Popular Español SA with regards to criminal proceedings over alleged mismanagement of the bank's finances by former management, according to a court document.

The ruling effectively ends restricted access to ECB information on Popular to the various parties involved in the criminal proceedings.

The document, published by a Madrid court Oct. 2, says that following advice from two legal experts working on the case, the court lifted the order because the documents given by the ECB "bring information that is useful for the expertise" and "would not harm the ongoing investigation."

The ECB had requested that the information remain confidential from other parties in the proceedings, with access given only to the judge, legal experts and the prosecutor. The court ruled July 18 that the information could stay secret, effectively blocking access to all parties involved in the criminal proceedings, a ruling that was extended Aug. 10 and Sept. 14.

The ECB is not involved in the criminal proceedings, but had been asked for information given its role as a banking regulator.

The judge investigating the case, Fernando Andreu, will now incorporate the ECB data with that of the rest of the case on a cloud platform, the court ruling said.

Popular was Spain's sixth-largest lender and was wound down by European authorities June 7, 2017, after it was deemed "failing or ready to fail" in the first case of its kind in Europe. The procedure, carried out by the Single Resolution Board, the EU agency in charge of bank rescue, and its subsequent fire sale to Banco Santander SA for €1 are the subject of dozens of lawsuits that call into question the integrity of the EU's new bank resolution system.

Investors lost a total of €3 billion in the resolution, and several are taking legal action against the SRB at the European Court of Justice.

The ECB declined to comment on the ruling.