Rodrigo Rato, the man who symbolized the success of Spain that emerged at the end of the nineties to compete with the great powers of the world; that it was about to happen to José María Aznar to aspire to the presidency of the Government and to which it ended up being small the national economy after reaching the top of the International Monetary Fund; the man who became a banker to supposedly bring Caja Madrid afloat in the middle of a recession is now one step away from jail.
The Supreme Court has upheld the four-and-a-half-year sentence imposed on Rato by the National Court for the cards black, which leads the former president of Bankia to enter prison, unless a series of exceptional measures are granted that go through a pardon or because the Constitutional Court considers that their fundamental rights have been violated. Rato also has pending other causes that complicate its judicial future. As of November 26, he will have to face the trial for Bankia's going public, while a Madrid court investigates him and members of his environment for money laundering and tax crimes.
The high court endorsed the report that the Audiencia Nacional made of the credit card system opaque to the treasury that worked in Caja Madrid and Bankia between 2003 and 2012. black, according to the Supreme Court, were the result of a "plan to dispose of money from the cash" for the benefit of the top managers of the entity (first the deceased Miguel Blesa and then, the former vice-president and former Minister of Economy of the PP with Aznar) and of the other 63 ex-directors and convicted ex-counselors. Together they spent 12.5 million euros. There were charges on restaurant cards, supermarkets, women's underwear and party rooms. Also withdrawn in cash at ATMs.
The Supreme Court has imposed on other 14 ex-directors or ex-counselors sentences greater than two years in prison, so, predictably, they will have to enter prison. For the rest, with penalties of between three months and two years, the National Court (which judged the case and has to execute the sentence of the Supreme Court) can suspend the imprisonment, although it will decide case by case.
The court has taken four months to review the appeals filed against the judgment handed down on February 23, 2017 by the National Court. The highest sentence (six years in prison) then fell to the former president of Caja Madrid between 1996 and 2009, Miguel Blesa, who died in July 2017. After his death, the Supreme Court ruled that, although criminal responsibility was extinguished, their heirs could be asked to take responsibility for civil liability. The high court has considered the two ex-presidents of the entity, Blesa and Rato, responsible civilians. The money that the convicted directors and directors do not return, would be their responsibility, until completing the more than 12.5 million euros spent with the cards. However, sources from Blesa's surroundings confirm that their heirs (their widow and daughter) have renounced the inheritance, which exempts them from payment. The money recovered will go to Bankia, heir to Caja Madrid, and not to the FROB, the public body that rescued the entity in 2012.
The defendant who has benefited most from the ruling of the Supreme Court is the former General Director of Media, Idelfonso Sánchez Barcoj. The National Court imposed a sentence of two and a half years in prison and the high court has lowered it to one year less a day.
Expenses without control
The Supreme Court recalls that it was under the Blesa stage that an opaque operating card system was created for the use of the president himself, members of some of its organs, board of directors and control committee. The cards had monthly and annual availability limits borne by a Caja account. The holders were not required to justify the expense and the amounts were not reflected in the contracts with the entity nor were they part of the remuneration agreed with the directors or the directors' allowances. Neither appeared in the income statements of any of them, or in the certificates of assets.
The sentence, of which the magistrate Miguel Colmenero has been a speaker, emphasizes that the imputed crime distinguishes between the role of the executive presidents, who launched or maintained this opaque operating card system; and that of the managers who acted as necessary cooperators of the same crime of misappropriation. The agreement between the author and the cooperators, explain the judges, arises naturally from the moment in which the first decides to deliver new cards or keep the previous ones and the second ones receive them and decide to use them for their own benefit.
The continued crime of misappropriation is not produced by accepting the card but by each use that was made of it. And, according to the judges, "it is not possible to accept" that the beneficiaries acted by believing "that they were acting in accordance with the law by disposing of that form of money of the entity." "No person with a minimum training, which could be identified with the average man, could understand in a minimally reasonable way that monetary perceptions that worked with such a degree of concealment and opacity, also for tax purposes, could be justified in the applicable standards "Warns the court.
The most striking cases of the sentence:
The former minister extended a system "perverse in origin"
Rodrigo Rato did not create black cards, but he kept them when he became president of Caja Madrid in 2010 and transferred them to Bankia. He did, in addition, according to the Supreme, "consciously", knowing that it was a system that since it was established "was perverse in its origin and in its transfer to practice". The sentence of the high court places to Rato in the peak of a plot formed, according to the judges, so that the beneficiaries of the card could have money of the box without any control.
When he became chairman of Caja Madrid and decided to keep the opaque cards delivered by his predecessor, Miguel Blesa, Rato already knew that the directors and directors of the entity could only collect their salary (those who had it), the allowances and compensation. "As it was considered insufficient, the interested criterion of those who could perceive them, it was decided to dispense with the legal path, which would have led to request an increase in the amounts assigned to such concepts," the judges say. Instead, those responsible for the entity opted to build a new system, "consisting of using the permitted concept of compensation but eliminating the legal requirement of documentary justification of the expense." This formula, adds the Supreme Court, empowered the holders of the cards to use them for their benefit without having to justify that they had been used in compensable expenses, which was outside the law.
During his time at the head of the entity (between 2010 and 2012), a total of 2.69 million euros were spent on these cards. The high court considers that Rato "took advantage of his position" and acted knowing that "he lacked the faculties to dispose of this form of patrimony over which he had serious obligations of care". The judges argue that, given their responsibilities, experience and preparation for the position, the former Minister of Economy and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund could not ignore the opaque operation of the cards. In spite of it "it maintained the system, and even it extended it to other people", affirm the magistrates.
Rato not only allowed and extended the use of opaque cards, but also assigned one himself and used it for his own benefit. He did so despite the fact that, according to the judges, he should have "felt warned of the irregularity of the situation" by Francisco Verdú, the CEO, when he rejected the card that was given to him.
According to the detail of the expenses already collected by the judgment of the National Court, Rato paid with his black card 99,054.59 euros: 3,600 in alcohol, 2,500 in art, 2,172 in clubs and clubs or 2,500 in art.
Barcoj, the great beneficiary of the penalty reduction
Ildefonso Sánchez Barcoj, former general director of media of Caja Madrid, has been the most benefited by the reduction of sentence applied by the Supreme Court to some convicts. The National Court considered him a collaborator of the operation that contributed to reduce "the flow of Caja Madrid" and imposed the third highest sentence: two and a half years in prison, a penalty that led him to go to prison if the high court I would have confirmed.
But the ex-executive challenged the ruling before the high court and the magistrates have admitted part of their arguments. The Supreme Court understands that he must be condemned for a single continuous offense of misappropriation and not for two crimes (one as a necessary cooperator and another as an accomplice) for which he was sentenced by the Court. The court also applies a very qualified mitigation measure to repair the damage after verifying that Barcoj recorded in the Hearing the money he spent with his black: 575,079 euros, the highest amount of all users of opaque cards.
With these new criteria, the Supreme Court has reduced the former director's penalty from two years and six months to one year minus one day in prison. A reduction that can free you from entering prison. If it is the third highest sentence, Barcoj is one of those who stand out better than the revision of the Supreme Court.
Rodríguez-Ponga and Rafael Spottorno, those of higher birth
Estanislao Rodríguez-Ponga, former Secretary of State for Finance with the PP, is one of the most notable characters of the black, especially for his position and the nature of the crime, which was concealed from the public treasury. He has been sentenced to three years and two months for spending 255,373 euros. The Supreme is especially hard in the response to his resources. Rodríguez-Ponga says that "when he received the card he did not have time to investigate his justification" and that "he always stuck to the contract".
The high court says that "since he started using the card he could not ignore that the amounts he had available did not appear anywhere", referring to the tax declaration. "He never made any note of the provisions, did not have to justify the expense and was never required explanations, such opacity could not respond to a form of compensation organized within the law."
A similar situation occurs with Rafael Spottorno, last boss of the Casa del Rey with Juan Carlos I. Spottorno charged 223,900 euros when he was president of the Caja Madrid Foundation. He said he did it because it was part of his salary. He has been sentenced to two years. The Supreme Court says that what was spent "could not be considered a wage bill", which makes it illegal.
Trade unionists, Díaz Ferrán and López Madrid, with prison sentences
The board of directors of Caja Madrid not only accommodated politicians; It also had reserved seats for unions and employers, whose directors participated in the expenditure without control of the opaque credit cards as much as the rest. Comisiones Obreras highlights the case of Francisco Baquero, with one of the biggest sentences: three years and two months in prison. He spent 266,400 euros. Rodolfo Benito, also from CC OO, spent 140,522 euros with the black card. He has been sentenced to three years in prison.
The sentences of three other CC OO members, Juan José Azcona, Gabriel Moreno and Pedro Bedía, are equal to or less than two years and are not expected to enter prison. Not so Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, a director appointed by the CEOE employer, sentenced to two years in prison but who has a criminal record (he has already served five years and six months for the Marsans case).
There were two councilors appointed by the CEIM employers, Javier López Madrid – currently charged in the Punic case – and Arturo Fernández. They have been sentenced to six months minus one day. Of those named by UGT, Gonzalo Martín Pascual, Rafael Torres and José Ricardo Martínez, only the first would go to prison for his three-year sentence.