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Santander CEO’s Criminal Record Stands After Pardon, Judges Say

Spain’s Supreme Court said Banco Santander SA Chief Executive Officer Alfredo Saenz’s criminal record would stand after he received a pardon.

The judges said that the “act of reprieve” by former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero last year didn’t remove Saenz’s criminal record, the court said in a ruling published in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The court was asked by a political group to rule that Zapatero and former Justice Minister Francisco Caamano had been guilty of dereliction of duty in granting the pardon.

The legal proceedings involving Saenz had cast a shadow over the executive and Spain’s biggest bank as he tried to steer it through the country’s property crash. According to a 1995 Royal decree, “professional virtue” is a prerequisite for those working in the banking industry and can be lost by anyone with a criminal record.

An official in Santander’s media department said in a phone interview that neither the bank nor Saenz had any immediate comment on the court ruling.

The case involving Saenz related to lawsuit stemming from his tenure as chairman of Banco Espanol de Credito SA, which is now a retail banking unit of Santander.

Banesto, as the lender is known, sued a group of businessmen, to recover loans in 1994. The defendants successfully filed counter-complaints of false accusation, which the judge decided to investigate and Saenz was held responsible because he approved the filing of the initial lawsuit.

In March of last year, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction, handing him a three-month jail term and a suspension from banking for the same period. Zapatero issued the partial pardon in November last year by commuting the penalties to the maximum fine allowed.

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