The scandal over company credit cards that top Caja Madrid and Bankia officials used to rack up €15.5 million in undeclared expenses between 1999 and 2012 has taken a new turn.
The Orderly Bank Restructuring Fund (FROB), which bailed out lender Bankia in 2012, said it had opened “a checking account at Bankia for the return of the amounts spent with the cards.”
The FROB has asked the Caja Madrid Foundation to pass this information along to individuals who might be interested in paying back money they spent on alleged representation costs, but which often went towards personal purchases at jewelry stores, fashion boutiques and supermarkets.
Eighty-six executives and board members at Caja Madrid and its successor Bankia received the credit cards and were given permission to use them even when the lenders were on the brink of bankruptcy.
But the FROB, which answers to Spain’s Economy Ministry, does not want to create the impression that individuals who willingly return money they spent are guilty of any crime. That is why it will not actively seek to recover the funds until a High Court judge working on the case determines whether credit card holders were entitled to incur the expenses or not.
Three top officials at both lenders are due to testify before Judge Fernando Andreu on Thursday to explain their role in the case. Former Caja Madrid chairman Miguel Blesa, ex-Bankia chief Rodrigo Rato – who was also managing director of the International Monetary Fund – and the financial director of both lenders, Ildefonso Sánchez Barcoj, have all been targeted in an investigation into misappropriation of funds and mismanagement.
Meanwhile, the Popular Party (PP) is considering expelling all party members involved in the scandal, including Rato, who was economy minister and deputy prime minister under José María Aznar in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The investigation is also considering the possibility that the credit cards were a way to give bank officials a bonus without having to declare it as part of their salary. In this case, it would be up to the Spanish Tax Agency to demand its money back.
Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has stated that he wants all the money returned, but it will be up to the judge to decide that.