Ex-IMF chief refuses to testify on fraud charges

Rodrigo Rato, the ex-head of the International Monetary Fund, refused to answer a judge's questions in Madrid on Wednesday over the latest in a string of fraud charges against him.

Ex-IMF chief refuses to testify on fraud charges
Rodrigo Rato in a car as he leaves the court on Wednesday. Photo: AFp

One of the best-known politicians in Spain, Rato was summoned before a Madrid judge investigating allegations including tax fraud and money-laundering.

A source present at the hearing said that Rato told the court: “My right to a defence obliges me not to answer your questions because I am unaware of the deeds of which I am accused” and the grounds for the charges.

He said he would not speak out in court until he had seen a report being drawn up by the fiscal authorities, based on documents seized during searches of his home and offices in April.

Rato, 66, was formerly a prominent member of Spain's governing Popular Party. He was Spain's finance minister in the late 1990s and managing director of the IMF from 2004 to 2007.

The investigating judge summoned him for a hearing to decide whether to bring formal charges against him over the latest allegations that erupted in April.

This probe centres on allegations of tax evasion, money-laundering and concealing assets.

Rato was already being investigated for alleged fraud during his time as chief executive at Bankia, a Spanish lender which needed to be bailed out by the government in 2012.

The near-collapse of Bankia almost brought down Spain's whole financial sector, which was bailed out later that year by international creditors for €41 billion ($44 billion).

Rato has also been questioned in court as part of a third probe into alleged spending sprees on company credit cards by him and other ex-managers of Bankia.

He has denied wrongdoing in both those cases.

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Barçagate: Police raid FC Barcelona offices and arrest former president

Police raided the offices of FC Barcelona on Monday, carrying out several arrests just six days ahead of the club's presidential elections, a Catalan regional police spokesman told AFP.

Barçagate: Police raid FC Barcelona offices and arrest former president
Barcelona's former president Josep Maria Bartomeu is among the arrested. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spain's Cadena Ser radio said one of those arrested was former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October, along with CEO Oscar Grau and the club's head of legal services.

But the police refused to confirm names, saying only “arrests are taking place” and adding that the operation was being run by officers from the financial crimes unit.

“We are in the process of carrying out an operation right now with agents of the financial crimes unit,” the police spokesman told AFP.

According to reports in the Spanish media, the operation is linked to last year's investigation into the 'BarçaGate' scandal, which saw the club deny hiring a company to criticise current and former players on social media to improve the image of the then-president Bartomeu.

Cadena Ser said Barca paid €1 million in six separate invoices to the company I3 Ventures, with whom the club have since cut ties.

Bartomeu resigned in October, after mounting pressure following months of controversy and a dramatic decline in performances on the pitch.

His successor is due to be elected on Sunday, when club members will choose between the final three candidates, Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font.