December 19, 2018
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European Union

Ex-Spain minister, IMF head denies criminal wrongdoing in handling of economy

Madrid, Jan 9 (efe-epa).- A former Spanish government minister and one-time head of the International Monetary Fund appeared in Parliament on Tuesday to defend his handling of the economy before the 2008 financial crisis and vehemently denied he had acted with criminal negligence.

Rodrigo Rato, who had been Spain's economy minister for eight years until 2004 and left his post as head of the IMF to become president of Bankia, a Spanish lender whose losses in the crisis saw it nationalized and bailed out for 18 billion euros ($24 billion), was answering questions from lawmakers.

"I am not a political criminal," Rato told left-wing Catalan lawmaker Esther Capella during a heated exchange that was televised.

"In my 30 years in politics you cannot level that accusation at me," Rato said. "I will not consent to you doing so here," he added.

A parliamentary committee was investigating Spain's financial crisis and the bank rescue that rocked the government and even the stability of the Euro as a currency.

The ex-deputy prime minister in the conservative Popular Party government of then PM José María Aznar told Capella that she was shielding herself behind parliamentary privilege to say things that would be libelous outside the chamber.

Capella had asserted that Rato personified the type of Spanish politician that was "corrupt, and corrupting society," a representative a system based on "cronyism and nepotism" and a member of a ruling class that thought itself to be immune to punishment and which was "predatory."

"You have insulted me and morally it is very serious that persons who come here have to be insulted," he told Capella.

Rato has been under judicial investigation in a number of high profile alleged fraud cases.

He was arrested in April 2015 for alleged fraud, embezzlement and money laundering and his name allegedly appeared in the Panama Papers.

He had previously claimed that he held no interests in tax havens.

Rato was found guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to 4 and a half years' imprisonment in Feb. 2017.

Capella said that Rato denied any responsibility for the financial crisis despite having approved the liberalization of land planning which "opened the gate" to the real estate boom that led Spain's banking sector to massive debt when the property bubble burst.

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