In an effort by Spain to crack down on corruption within its banking system, former head of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo Rato, was handed a stiff four year and six month jail sentence for embezzlement during his time at the head of Caja Madrid and Bankia.
AFP recently reported that Spain’s National Court charged Rato and 64 other former Caja Madrid and Bankia executives and board members with misusing 12 million Euros between 2003 and 2012, coming during Spain’s financial crisis and involving banks that were receiving millions in public funds.
“They were accused of having paid for personal expenses with credit cards put at their disposal by both Caja Madrid and Bankia, without ever justifying them or declaring them to tax authorities. These expenses included petrol for their cars, supermarket shopping, holidays, luxury bags or parties in nightclubs,” reports AFP.
The indictment alleged that when Rato took charge of Caja Madrid in 2010, he continued to maintain the corrupt system that was established by his predecessor, Miguel Blesa, who was sentenced to six years in jail. Rato then allegedly set up a similar system after taking lead of Bankia in 2011.
Rato insists that he committed no crime, saying that the credit cards were intended for discretionary spending and were part of a deal signed with the executive team.
As Rato is a well-connected elite in the Spanish political scene, he has not yet been sent to jail and will remain free due to an expected appeal.
Rato also served as a economy minister and deputy prime minister in the government of conservative Jose Maria Aznar from 1996 to 2004 before joining on as head of the International Monetary fund from 2010 to 2012.
According to AFP, Rato may also be responsible for another banking scandal aside from the credit card misuse: “Thousands of small-scale investors lost their money after they were persuaded to convert their savings to shares ahead of the flotation of Bankia in 2011, with Rato at the reins. Less than a year later, he resigned as it became known that Bankia was in dire straits.”
Spain attempted to keep Bankia and other banks alive, however eventually asked the European Union to bail them out and received 41 billion Euros, according to Activist Post.
Rato is the third former IMF chief to be charged with illegal activity – with Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine Lagarde also previously indicted – leaving one wondering what exactly the so-called banking cartel is really doing behind closed doors.
While countries like Spain and Iceland have prosecuted a number of bankers for their crimes that contributed to financial meltdowns, countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have failed to prosecute a single banking executive for their involvement in financial crisis’s, according to the Huffington Post.