World

Spain's PM says fraud probe into ex-minister, former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato damages his party

  • Protestors shout against corruption and hold banner reading 'Enough, Resign, PP Shame of Spain' during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 17, 2015. Former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato said Friday April 17, 2015, he plans to cooperate with justice officials after being detained for several hours while investigative tax agents searched his apartment and an office in Madrid. A spokesman for Madrid’s justice tribunal said Rato was under investigation by Madrid prosecutors for fraud, money laundering and asset concealment.(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

    Protestors shout against corruption and hold banner reading 'Enough, Resign, PP Shame of Spain' during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 17, 2015. Former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato said Friday April 17, 2015, he plans to cooperate with justice officials after being detained for several hours while investigative tax agents searched his apartment and an office in Madrid. A spokesman for Madrid’s justice tribunal said Rato was under investigation by Madrid prosecutors for fraud, money laundering and asset concealment.(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2007 file photo, former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato attends a press conference in Washington, U.S. Rodrigo Rato was taken away by police on the night of Thursday, April 16, 2015 after tax officials spent hours searching his apartment in one of Madrid’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Rato, also a former Spanish economy minister, was taken in an unmarked police car. Spanish media reported he was heading with them to one of his offices and would head after that to a police station.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2007 file photo, former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato attends a press conference in Washington, U.S. Rodrigo Rato was taken away by police on the night of Thursday, April 16, 2015 after tax officials spent hours searching his apartment in one of Madrid’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Rato, also a former Spanish economy minister, was taken in an unmarked police car. Spanish media reported he was heading with them to one of his offices and would head after that to a police station. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Protestors shout against corruption during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 17, 2015. Former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato said Friday April 17, 2015, he plans to cooperate with justice officials after being detained for several hours while investigative tax agents searched his apartment and an office in Madrid. A spokesman for Madrid’s justice tribunal said Rato was under investigation by Madrid prosecutors for fraud, money laundering and asset concealment. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

    Protestors shout against corruption during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 17, 2015. Former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato said Friday April 17, 2015, he plans to cooperate with justice officials after being detained for several hours while investigative tax agents searched his apartment and an office in Madrid. A spokesman for Madrid’s justice tribunal said Rato was under investigation by Madrid prosecutors for fraud, money laundering and asset concealment. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)  (The Associated Press)

Spain's prime minister says an investigation into an ex-minister and former International Monetary Fund chief over alleged fraud and money laundering is damaging his party, which faces a general election late this year.

Mariano Rajoy said Saturday the probe into Rodrigo Rato "particularly affects the Popular Party" because the former minister "has been one of our most important assets."

Rato, who was detained briefly as police searched his home and offices, served as economy minister and deputy prime minister under conservative ex-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar between 1996 and 2004, and had been seen as a possible successor to Aznar.

Rato headed the IMF from 2004 to 2007.

Late Friday, as protesters gathered outside the PP's Madrid headquarters, Spain's prosecutor ordered Rato's bank accounts blocked.