Banker's €144m corruption trial delayed

The corruption trial of Spain’s most powerful banker, who bought Britain’s Abbey National, was suspended just hours after it started today when the defence presented new evidence.

The corruption trial of Spain’s most powerful banker, who bought Britain’s Abbey National, was suspended just hours after it started today when the defence presented new evidence.

Emilio Botin, chairman of Santander Central Hispano, is accused of paying two executives more than €144.4m to get rid of them, leaving him in control. The two executives are also on trial.

The trial in Madrid will resume on Monday after the prosecution has had time to study the new evidence, said Judge Antonio Diaz Delgado said.

Santander said it paid co-chairman Jose Maria Amusategui €43.3m as a bonus for services rendered and it paid former Chief Executive Angel Corcostegui €108.3m as a lump sum payment of his pension.

It said the payments were in accordance with its bylaws and approved by its board of directors.

The prosecution claims the payments were made behind the backs of the bank’s shareholders and were made to ease the two men’s departures, leaving Botin in firm control of the bank.

Since he took the helm of Santander in 1986, Botin has turned a regional Spanish bank into one of the world’s top 10 banks in terms of market capitalisation.

He bought the Abbey National bank for €13.9bn at the end of last years in Europe’s biggest cross-border banking deal.

The case highlights the management style of Botin, 70, whose family has controlled Santander – now Spain’s second-largest listed company – for more than 100 years. Though the Botins control less than 2% of the bank’s shares, they have four seats on its 19 member board.

National Court Investigating Judge Teresa Palacios decided last year that the case should go to trial against the recommendation of a Spanish prosecutor.

If convicted, the defendants face prison sentences of up to six years plus heavy fines, while Botin would also likely come under pressure to resign as Santander chairman from the Bank of Spain as well as Santander’s own bylaws.

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