Judge sends Mario Conde to jail for money laundering and tax fraud

Disgraced former Banesto chief to be held without bail along with lawyer

Mario Conde heads to the High Court this week.Photo: atlas

Spanish High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz decided on Wednesday to send disgraced ex-bank chief Mario Conde to prison while an investigation into allegations that he laundered millions of euros back into Spain from accounts held abroad continues. The former chairman of Banesto’s children, Alejandra and Mario, as well as his lawyer, are also under suspicion for supposedly creating a network of companies in Spain and other countries that were used for moving the money that Conde embezzled from the Spanish lender in the 1990s.

Conde will be held in custody with no chance of bail. All of the suspects in the probe, which the Civil Guard has named Operation Phoenix, are accused of money laundering, criminal organization, and other fiscal crimes.

Conde, who has already served jail time for his offenses committed at Banesto, will see the inside of a cell for the first time since 2008, when he completed a 20-year sentence for stealing money from the lender.

The ex-banker’s lawyer, Francisco Javier de la Vega, who was the architect of the maze of companies set up by Conde, will also be held in custody. Conde’s daughter, meanwhile, will be held under house arrest.

The remainder of the accused will be released but will have to make a weekly appearance at a police station.

The investigation has revealed that Conde may have laundered as much as €13 million back into Spain from eight different countries since 1999, despite having declared himself insolvent in order to avoid paying the compensation ordered by the courts when he was sentenced for his offenses at Banesto. At one point he tried to borrow money in order to pay the bail he needed to get out of jail.

The investigation was put in motion after the Spanish Tax Agency alerted the anti-corruption prosecutor of the arrival of funds from abroad. The tax authorities in turn were alerted to what was happening thanks to a tip-off.

The arrest of Conde on Monday came 23 years after the Banesto case first broke, when the Bank of Spain discovered 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.

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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