Spanish bank president to testify in judge's payments probe

21st April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The president of Spain's biggest bank, Santander, will be questioned as part of a probe into payments received by top judge Baltazar Garzon by the lender to speak at conferences in the United States, a judicial source said Wednesday.

Emilio Botin will be quizzed by Spanish Supreme Court judge Manuel Marchena on May 12, the source told AFP.

Garzon, a judge on the bench of Spain's High Court who is best known for his pursuit of Latin American dictators, denied receiving money from Santander to deliver seminars on terrorism in New York City while on leave a few years ago.

Two lawyers representing minority Santander shareholders filed a complaint against him for corruption and abuse of power.

They allege he received 302,000 dollars (224,000 euros) from Santander as payment for delivering the 17 conferences in 2005 and 2006 and then shelved a complaint against Botin shortly after he returned to Spain and resumed his duties on the bench.

Garzon, 54, says he was paid "absolutely independently" by the King Juan Carlos of Spain Center at New York University. The King Juan Carlos of Spain Center is regularly sponsored by Santander.

He is at the centre of a political firestorm after Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela decided to put Garzon on trial for abuse of power by launching a probe into atrocities carried out during Spain's civil war and subsequent dictatorship.

Garzon is the target of a third investigation into his alleged bias in a probe which he launched into a corruption scandal rocking the conservative opposition Popular Party.

© 2010 AFP

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