Customs officers conduct search of ex-IMF chief’s Madrid home

Rodrigo Rato, a former minister, is allegedly being investigated for money laundering

Tax agency officers standing outside the home of Rodrigo Rato in Madrid.
Tax agency officers standing outside the home of Rodrigo Rato in Madrid.Jaime Villanueva

Customs officers on Thursday raided the home of Rodrigo Rato, a former IMF chief who also served as a senior government official with the Popular Party (PP) in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

At around 4pm, members of the Customs Surveillance Service (SVA), which is part of the Spanish Tax Agency, entered Rato’s residence in the upscale Madrid neighborhood of Salamanca. Two National Police patrol cars were parked outside the door.

The search warrant was issued by a Madrid court, in response to a request from the public prosecutor, according to judicial sources.

Police sources said that the former economy minister and deputy prime minister was inside his home at the time of the search.

The move comes a day after it emerged that Rato applied for a 2012 tax amnesty that authorities now suspect may have been used by some applicants for money laundering purposes. According to several media reports, Rato is on a list of 705 individuals being investigated by the Executive Service for Prevention and Capital Laundering (Sepblac) in connection with this.

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Asked by EL PAÍS whether he was on the list of money laundering suspects, Rato neither denied nor confirmed the claim. “I have received no document from any agency stating that I am being investigated by Sepblac. This is a personal matter and I don’t think I have any obligation to make a statement.”

Rato, who headed the International Monetary Fund between 2004 and 2007, is caught up in several related investigations. 

One of them involves the flotation of Bankia, the lender he presided from December 2010 to May 2012, when it went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by the state.

Rodrigo Rato after his court testimony over the Caja Madrid credit cards.
Rodrigo Rato after his court testimony over the Caja Madrid credit cards.Bernardo Pérez

But he is also the target of an investigation into the credit cards used by top officials at Caja Madrid, the predecessor to Bankia, which Rato also headed. Between 2003 and 2012, 83 executives and board members racked up €15.5 million in expenses that included travel, gourmet restaurants and jewelry using cards that were never declared.

Additionally, investigators are analyzing a €6 million payment made out to Rato by Lazard, the investment bank that he worked for before joining Caja Madrid. Lazard was hired to help Bankia begin trading on the Madrid stock exchange when Rato was its chairman.

Following news that Rato benefited from the 2012 tax amnesty, the main opposition Socialists have forced Congress to vote on a motion that would make public the names of the 30,000 individuals who applied for the tax regularization.

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