Spain: Minister defends meeting with probed ex-IMF chief
MADRID (AP) — Spain’s interior minister said Friday he met with former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato last month to discuss security concerns after Rato — who is suspected of fraud and money-laundering — received threats, primarily on social media.
Responding to a storm of criticism for hosting Rato at his ministry in an unpublicized encounter, Jorge Fernandez Diaz told a parliamentary commission he did not discuss Rato’s legal case with him during the meeting at the ministry.
Their meeting was revealed only after the El Mundo newspaper found out about it and published a story. Spain’s opposition Socialist Party has asked prosecutors to investigate whether Fernandez Diaz broke laws by meeting with Rato.
Fernandez Diaz bristled at the move. He told the commission the two talked about hundreds of threats that Rato and members of his family have received on social media after he was detained April in a highly publicized search of his home and business office by tax agents investigating alleged tax fraud and money-laundering.
Rato is protected by government security agents because he previously served as a Spanish deputy prime minister. Fernandez Diaz said it was his duty as Spain’s top security official to agree to Rato’s request for the meeting.
Rato headed the IMF from 2004-2007 and is a legendary figure from the governing Popular Party who served as economy minister under ex-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar between 1996 and 2004, and had been seen as a possible successor to Aznar.
The fraud investigation stems from his time as chief executive of Spain’s Bankia bank.
Rato resigned from Bankia in 2012 amid concerns over the bank’s solvency at the height of Spain’s financial crisis, and the bank itself subsequently received a bailout.
Rato is named as a suspect in two criminal investigations surrounding Bankia, including one focusing on corporate credit card misuse by bank executives.
This story has been corrected to reflect the correct name of the IMF.