Manuel Fernández de Sousa, the now notorious former president and CEO of Spain's largest fishing company Pescanova, has been sentenced to eight years in prison by the country's High Court, La Audiencia Nacional.
The sentence comes seven years after the collapse of Pescanova, which became the largest non-real estate business bankruptcy in the history of Spain, concealing a hidden debt amounting to €3.6 billion ($4.2 billion).
Eleven other defendants from the company's leadership received penalties, ranging from six months to three and a half years in prison.
In addition to individual people, the National Court also fined, among others, the entities Pescanova SA and external auditor BDO.
They were also ordered to pay different amounts for civil liabilities that, in some cases, reach more than €51 million ($60.2 million) for the amounts that some of the investors ended up losing.
It is the first time that an auditor has been sentenced in Spain. In this case, a double sentence, because it is BDO, as a company, and Santiago Sañé, a partner at BDO and the auditor of Pescanova when the company went bankrupt, who will go to prison for 3 years and six months.
Fernández de Sousa headed the company for 32 years, and admitted to "errors and successes" during his management but denied committing any crimes.
He was accused of eight crimes in total, mostly concerned with corporate and financial fraud, and faced up to 28 years in prison and a fine of more than €22 million ($25.5 million).
Exercising his right to a final word in court in July, Fernández de Sousa again pleaded not guilty to the charges of "fraudulent practices" and of committing "fraud to shareholders and investors," of which he was accused.
"My colleagues and I will have made mistakes, no doubt, but all seeking the benefit of the company, and never committing any crime," he said.
Instead, Fernandez de Sousa placed the blame of the company's collapse at the feet of the fishing giant's external auditors, BDO, whom he claims knew about the irregular accounting practices and did nothing to warn or stop them.
He also partially accused the companies Damm and Luxempart for their part in profiting from Pescanova's credit needs during the crisis.
The entire saga is long and complex, but you can refresh your memory with our timeline of Pescanova's collapse, which started to unravel in the early months of 2013.
Following the fallout, Nueva Pescanova emerged from the ashes to restructure and rebrand what was left of the company.
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