BANESTO SCANDAL

Lawyer for ex-banker Mario Conde claims money came from father-in-law

Representative for disgraced former Banesto chief does admit to advising on capital increases of companies

Mario Conde in a file photo.
Mario Conde in a file photo.EFE

The lawyer of disgraced former Banesto bank chairman Mario Conde said on Tuesday that he did not know that the funds that he helped bring into Spain from accounts in other countries could have been illicit. Javier de la Vega told Civil Guard investigators that he had been told by Conde’s family that the funds came from the father of Lourdes Arroyo, the ex-banker’s wife, who died in 2007. According to sources from the investigation, the lawyer claims to have been told that Conde’s father-in-law had amassed a large fortune thanks to his business activities, and that he had taken some of these assets out of the country.

Sources from the investigation say that all of the evidence points to the fact that the money came from Conde himself

Conde was arrested on Monday, along with seven other people – including his son and daughter – on suspicion of laundering ill-gotten funds from his time at the helm of Banesto back into Spain. The former banker was at the center of a scandal in the 1990s, after the Bank of Spain found a €3.8 billion hole in the accounts of the lender. He served time in prison for his role in the affair, but always maintained his innocence.

Sources report that lawyer Javier de la Vega, an expert in national and international commerce, was hired by Conde’s wife Lourdes Arroyo, and it was she who gave him instructions until her death. After that time it was her daughter, Alejandra Conde, with whom he had a professional relationship. Alejandra Conde is one of the people who was arrested on Monday by the Civil Guard, as part of what has been called Operation Phoenix.

According to sources from the investigation, Conde took years to bring the money back to Spain, starting with small sums of around €3,000

Sources from the investigation claim, however, that all of the evidence points to the fact that the money did not come from Conde’s father-in-law, but rather from Conde himself, who is thought to have constructed a web of companies in Spain and abroad, which served for him to be able to bring back nearly €14 million via fictitious capital increases from the foreign companies in favor of those in Spain. The money is also thought to have arrived in Spain via fake loans, as well as in the form of payment for services that were never provided.

De la Vega is reported to have told the authorities that his work was limited to assessing the former banker’s daughter “about the investments” she made in Spain, and argued that he did not have any part in the creation of said companies nor did he imagine, “nor should he have been aware,” that the millions of euros had illicit origins. He did admit to advising the family on the capital increases of the companies in Spain, which were fronted by Conde’s children and employees.

According to sources from the investigation, Conde took years to bring the money back to Spain, starting with small sums – around €3,000 – and later increasing the amounts each year. Between 2010 and 2011 he repatriated €2 million, the same sources say.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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