Heads roll in Spain bank scandal implicating ex-IMF chief

A string of Spanish officials resigned Friday over allegations that former bosses of bailed-out lender Bankia, including ex-IMF head Rodrigo Rato, spent extravagantly on personal leisure with company credit cards.

Audit documents submitted by prosecutors to Spain’s National Court detailed a total of 15.2 million euros ($19.2 million) of spending by former managers, including 54,800 euros by Rato.

The 86 suspected users of the credit cards also included Rafael Spottorno, who was manager of Spain’s royal household under former king Juan Carlos.

The heads of several senior officials named in the court documents rolled on Thursday and Friday in the scandal.

These included the principal private secretary in the budget ministry, Jose Maria Buenaventura, a source in the ministry told AFP.

The source said the ministry planned to launch an investigation into a number of listed companies in Spain to find out whether they have similar suspect spending practices.

The third-in-command in the Madrid regional economy ministry Pablo Abejas was fired and Jose Ricardo Martinez resigned as leader of the top UGT labour union in Madrid, sources in their offices told AFP on Friday.

Among other names in the court documents were members of political parties including the opposition Socialists (PSOE).

The Socialists’ new leader Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter on Friday: “I am ashamed that PSOE activists are involved in the credit card affair. I apologise for it.”

The party said it would investigate which members were involved and expel them from the PSOE.

– Ex-IMF chief named –

The Bankia documents, seen by AFP, were submitted by prosecutors to the court for its investigation into the privatisation of the banking group.

The near collapse of Bankia in 2012 caused thousands of customers to lose their savings and pushed Spain to seek a 41-billion-euro international bailout for its financial sector.

The documents, which contain findings of an internal audit of the company, indicate spending on non-work-related hotels, restaurants and trips by former directors of Caja Madrid, one of the regional banks that make up the Bankia group.

Former economy minister Rato is one of the best-known financial figures in Spain and a prominent figure in the ruling conservative Popular Party.

He served from 2004 to 2007 as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the worldwide lender which played a key role in tackling the eurozone debt crisis from 2010.

Rato was chief executive of Caja Madrid and held the top post at Bankia from 2010 to 2012.

He has made no public comment to the latest allegations.

Anti-corruption prosecutors said in a statement that the credit cards were given to the managers “outside the established sphere” of professional expenses.

Finance Minister Luis de Guindos told a news conference that the FROB, a state body set up to clean up bad assets in the banking sector, would be a party to the case.

“It has to recover all the money that may have been paid in a certain way using those cards,” he told a news conference, adding that he suspected the Caja Madrid affair was an “isolated case”.