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BLACK CREDIT CARDS

Ex-IMF chief Rato sentenced to four-and-a-half years over credit card scandal

Spain’s High Court finds Rodrigo Rato and 64 other bank officials guilty of misappropriation of funds

Rodrigo Rato, who headed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2004 to 2007 has been found guilty of misappropriation of funds in a high-profile case that rocked Spain, coming as it did during the country’s tough economic crisis.

Rodrigo Rato and Miguel Blesa in court.
Rodrigo Rato and Miguel Blesa in court. AFP

Rato, also a former finance minister with Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) and a former Caja Madrid chairman, is one of 65 officials found guilty over their use of ‘black’ complimentary credit cards, which were handed out to dozens of officials at two struggling banks.

Also among those found guilty was fellow former Caja Madrid Miguel Blesa, who received a six-year sentence. The sentences for other defendants ranged from three months to six years.

From 1999 to 2012, former executives and board members at Caja Madrid, which later merged with other failed lenders to form Bankia, were given credit cards that drew money from a bank fund. These amounts did not show up on any bank documents or job contracts, nor were they reported in tax returns.

The 65 defendants (there were originally 66, but one of them has since passed away) used these cards liberally to pay for personal expenses, racking up bills worth €15.5 million on everything from gourmet restaurants to designer clothes and expensive trips.

Some of the board members had previously claimed that their credit cards were a supplement because of their dedication to the bank, and that the Tax Agency was aware of their existence.

“They were not opaque and they were not black,” said the defense lawyer for Jesús Pedroche, a board member for the Popular Party (PP).

English version by George Mills.

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