Former IMF Head Rato Begins Defense in ‘Black Cards’ Trial

  • Rodrigo Rato faces trail over use of corporate cards at Bankia
  • Credit card case became a symbol of excesses by savings banks

Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, appeared in a court in Madrid Monday as he seeks to defend himself over corporate credit card spending in a case that has become a symbol of excesses by Spain’s former savings banks.

Rato is among 65 officials at Bankia SA and its founding savings bank Caja Madrid ordered to face trial accused of misusing credit cards from 2003 to 2012, running up combined bills of more than 12 million euros ($13.4 million), the National Court said in February. The Black Cards case as it has been dubbed in the Spanish media is being heard at a court in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid. Rato arrived in court at 9.40 a.m.

The case comes to trial as Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attempts to muster support for a second term in office while a string of corruption allegations swirl around officials in his People’s Party. As well as Rato’s credit card case -- he was a former deputy prime minister for the PP in the government of Jose Maria Aznar -- a number of officials linked to the party are due to stand trial in the National Court in October for allegedly benefiting from illegal commissions between 1999 and 2005.

Rato became chairman of Caja Madrid in 2010 and led the creation of Bankia group by merging the lender with six other savings banks. Bankia’s near-collapse in 2012 helped forced Spain into taking a 41 billion-euro bailout from the European Union amid concern that the cost of rescuing the lender risked sinking the government’s finances.

Rato’s lawyer, Ignacio Ayala didn’t return messages for comment when contacted by Bloomberg. Rato is due to start giving evidence Sept. 30, a court official said. Rato has said that the use of the cards was part of his salary, El Mundo reported.

Rato’s card had about 99,000 euros in charges including 1,584 euros spent at jewelers, a 3,547.19-euro bill for alcoholic drinks and minor expenditures such as highway tolls and a 0.79-euro expenditure on “musical instruments,” according to a list obtained by Bloomberg.

Rato has paid back about 99,000 euros relating to the amounts charged to his card, according to the February ruling by the National Court that ordered him to trial.

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