Mon, Feb 04, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Top Paschi di Siena officials in graft probe: report

AFP, ROME

About 10 former top officials of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) have been named in a probe into a financial scandal that has shaken the Italian bank to its core, national media reported on Saturday.

Prosecutors launched legal proceedings into the bank about 10 days ago after media revealed that hundreds of millions of euros were missing from the bank’s accounts after risky investments in complex financial products.

According to local media, the bank’s directors tried to conceal the losses.

Questioning of the former bank officials is expected to start this week.

The investigation also centers on the bank’s 2007 acquisition of Antonveneta from Spanish banking group Santander for 10 billion euros (US$13.6 billion), at least 2 billion euros more than the small bank’s estimated value at the time.

Accusations range from conspiracy to fraud, including the provision of false information and preventing proper oversight by banking authorities.

The media revelations emerged just as Italy’s government granted a 3.9 billion euro bailout to BMPS, the world’s oldest bank.

On Saturday, Rome’s administrative tribunal, in a provisional decision, rejected a request from consumer association Codacons to block the loan as a preventive measure.

Codacons, which has also called for Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco to step down, claims the Bank of Italy was not transparent in granting the bailout and said it will lodge a complaint that the central bank violated EU rules on state aid.

The Bank of Italy has, in turn, called Codacons’ complaint “unfounded” and has asked the tribunal to fine it.

A new hearing has been set for Feb. 20.

Also in the legal case linked to BMPS, Rome prosecutors have opened an investigation regarding market manipulation and obstructing the work of banking watchdogs.

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