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Former IMF chief Rato to leave Spanish prison on semi-release from embezzlement sentence

FILE PHOTO: Former International Monetary Fund Managing Director Rodrigo Rato attends a parliamentary commission investigating the financial crisis in Madrid, Spain, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) - Former IMF boss Rodrigo Rato was set to walk out of a Madrid prison after Spain’s High Court on Thursday granted him a semi-release which allows him to serve the rest of a four-and-half- year sentence for embezzlement in partial liberty.

The ruling came just two days after he was acquitted in a separate fraud trial over the listing of Bankia when he was the bank’s chairman - a decision which was a factor in the High Court judges’ ruling.

The 71-year-old Rato had served nearly two years of his sentence after being found guilty in 2018 of embezzlement in a trial over the misuse of Bankia credit cards, a scandal dubbed the Black Card case.

The High Court said on Thursday its reasons for the semi-release - known as an open permission regime - included his advanced age, the low risk of reoffending, health issues, and the fact that he had asked for forgiveness in the credit cards case.

A court spokesman said such regimes usually allow prisoners to leave the prison during the day or even serve the rest of the sentence at home while being tracked electronically.

Rato, who as former head of the International Monetary Fund wielded financial power across the globe, was serving time at Soto del Real prison on the outskirts of Madrid, a facility sometimes called the VIP’s prison.

On Tuesday, he was cleared of falsifying accounts and all other charges in a trial relating to Bankia’s ill-fated 2011 listing. His lawyer did not reply to a request for comment.

Rato, who still faces another legal case for tax fraud, served as Spain’s Economy Minister between 1996 and 2004, IMF chief between 2004 and 2007, and Bankia chairman between 2010 and 2012.

Reporting by Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo; editing by Angus MacSwan

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