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EX-IMF chief denies bank misrepresented accounts before listing

MADRID: Ex-IMF head Rodrigo Rato denied Friday that bailed-out Spanish lender Bankia misrepresented its accounts ahead of its doomed 2011 stock listing while he was chairman of the bank.

The allegations came in a Bank of Spain report submitted to a court investigating the public listing of Bankia, many of whose customers lost their savings.

The financial evaluation of Bankia included in the brochure for the stock listing “did not present a faithful picture of the company”, the experts wrote in the report which was made public on Thursday.

They added that they had discovered “inexplicable purchases” of Bankia shares and “sales immediately after the stock listing that cast doubt on the real interest of certain investors”.

Rato, a former International Monetary Fund chief who was Bankia chairman at the time of the flotation, has been questioned in Madrid’s National Court over the case along with some other former managers on suspicion of fraud.

None of them so far has been formally charged, but they have become targets of popular anger in a country with a 24-percent unemployment rate, fanned by a string of political corruption scandals.

“We had no intention to fool anybody. But besides, we did not have the least possibility to do so,” Rato said during an interview with radio Onda Cero when asked about the Bank of Spain report.

“We were not acting alone, we were completely controlled,” added Rato, a former Spanish economy minister.

Bankia nearly collapsed in 2012 and had to be bailed out by the Spanish government for 24 billion euros ($30 billion).

Thousands of customers who say they lost their money after being misled into converting their savings into Bankia shares have brought separate lawsuits against the group.

In several hundred cases judges have ruled in their favour, according to associations representing those affected.

The experts said Bankia overvalued its real estate assets in its accounts for 2011, damaged by the property crash that hurled Spain into crisis in 2008.

The accounts “do not fulfil the Bank of Spain’s norms, due to accounting errors,” the experts wrote.

These errors “are the result of omissions or imprecisions due to the failure to use the information that was available when the financial reports were drawn up, and which the BFA-Bankia group could and should have used.”

Bankia’s 2011 accounts were reformulated in May 2012 by the lender’s current team headed by chairman Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, and were restated to reflect a 3.0 billion loss for 2011, rather than a 309 million euro profit.

But the experts’ report also alleged accounting failures dating to just after Goirigolzarri took the helm of Bankia. -AFP

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