Ex-IMF chief Rato ‘seeks forgiveness’ as he starts jail term in Spain for graft

Former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato apologised to "society" on Thursday just before he began a jail sentence in Spain for misusing funds in a case that sparked outrage at the height of the country's economic crisis.

Ex-IMF chief Rato 'seeks forgiveness' as he starts jail term in Spain for graft
File photo taken on October 16, 2014 shows former IMF head Rodrigo Rato leaves a hearing in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Rato, a former Spanish economy minister, was found guilty in 2017 of paying for personal expenses with credit cards put at his disposal when he was the boss of Caja Madrid and Bankia, at a time when both banks were in difficulty.   

The case shocked Spain, where it was uncovered at the height of the crisis that left many people struggling financially. Bankia later had to be nationalised.

The 69-year-old had been free on bail pending an appeal but Spain's Supreme Court last month confirmed his  sentence of four years and six months.   

“I ask for forgiveness to society and those people who may feel disappointed or affected,” Rato told reporters before entering the Soto del Real prison north of Madrid.

A spokeswoman for Spain's prison system confirmed Rato entered the jail just after one pm (1100 GMT).

He was economy minister and deputy prime minister in the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar from 1996 to 2004, before going on to head the International Monetary Fund until 2007.   

His subsequent career as a banker in Spain was short-lived — from 2010 to 2012. But apart from the undeclared credit cards, it also led to another banking scandal considered the country's biggest.

Thousands of small-scale investors lost their money after they were persuaded to buy 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.

The state injected billions of euros but faced with the scale of losses and trouble in other banks, it asked the European Union for a bailout for the entire banking sector and eventually received €41 billion.

Rato is due to stand trial in November, accused of falsifying information about Bankia's finances.

He is the third former IMF chief to fall foul of the law.   

His successor Dominique Strauss-Kahn was tried in 2015 on pimping charges in a lurid sex scandal, and was acquitted.   

And Christine Lagarde, who took over from Strauss-Kahn and is the current IMF chief, was found guilty of negligence over a state payout to a tycoon when she was French finance minister, though she received no penalty.

READ MORE: Spanish court confirms 4.5-year jail term for disgraced ex-IMF chief Rato


Spain’s ‘2,000-tumour man’ sentenced for scamming donors

A Spaniard known as "the man with 2,000 tumours" who lied about having terminal cancer was handed a two-year jail term Monday for scamming donations from thousands, including celebrities.

Spain's '2,000-tumour man' sentenced for scamming donors
De Cedecejj - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Paco Sanz, 50, appeared regularly on television and social media between 2010 and 2017, claiming to have nearly 2,000 tumours as a result of Cowden syndrome.

Saying he had only months to live, he appealed for donations via his web page, through text messages and even a charity gala.   

Although he did suffer from the syndrome, all his tumours were benign and posed no threat to his life.

Prosecutors say the former security guard collected just under €265,000 ($319,000) before being arrested in March 2017 in the eastern Valencia region.   

Among those who sent him money were popular television presenter Jorge Javier Vazquez and Spanish footballer Alvaro Negredo.    

Prosecutors accused Sanz of “taking advantage of his illness” to “obtain illegal funding”.

They said he presented the disease as being “much more serious than it really was” and of falsely claiming he could only be saved if he got experimental treatment in the United States.   

In reality, he travelled to the US to take part in a free clinical trial and “all his costs were covered” by the firm running it, prosecutors added.    

In video obtained by Spanish media at the time of his arrest, Sanz could be seen joking with his girlfriend and family members about the lies he was telling.

As his trial opened in Madrid on Monday, Sanz pleaded guilty to fraud, receiving a two-year jail sentence, while his girlfriend was sentenced to a year and nine months for being his accomplice.

But they are not likely to serve time behind bars, as sentences below two years are usually suspended in Spain for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes.

The trial will continue so the court can determine how much money the pair owe in damages.

READ ALSO: Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam