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Business

Spanish judge seizes passport of ex-IMF chief Rato

A Spanish judge has confiscated former Economy Minister Rodrigo Rato's passport. It said the move was a precautionary measure as court officials investigate allegations of money laundering and tax fraud against him.

Rato, also ex-chairman of

bailed-out Spanish lender Bankia

, had his passport seized on Tuesday as he appeared in court for three hours to answer questions from a judge.

The measure came amid continued

allegations of corruption

, tax fraud and money laundering against the former IMF chief.

Rato has become a focus of Spanish public anger over cases of high-level corruption playing out against a backdrop of recession and austerity cuts in the southern eurozone nation.

Falling into disgrace

The former minister was a star of the governing People's Party, making the judicial investigation of his affairs an embarrassment for the center-right force as it gears up for a national election.

The investigating court in Madrid had looked into how Rato handled his personal wealth and said it had frozen some of his assets after he failed to deposit enough funds to cover potential liabilities.

In a separate case, Spain's High Court is investigating the 2011 flotation of Bankia which took place under Rato's watch. The lender had to be bailed out by the state less than a year later.

Following the seizure of his passport, Rato will still be able to travel within the European Union with his Spanish ID card, but he'll have to check in with the court once a month.

hg/cjc (dpa, Reuters)

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