Source Pravda.Ru

Milan prosecutors examine Unipol chief in Italian bank probe

Milan prosecutors on Tuesday questioned the head of Italian insurer Unipol Assicurazioni SpA who is accused of helping rig two bank bids in a scandal that has seen several bankers jailed and forced the resignation of the Bank of Italy governor, news reports said. Giovanni Consorte is under investigation in Milan for market rigging in connection with a failed takeover bid by Banca Popolare Italiana Scarl of Banca Antonveneta SpA, newspapers, including top daily Corriere della Sera, reported.

He is also being investigated in Rome on the same charge in connection with Unipol's own bid for Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA, the reports said. Prosecutors have claimed that key players in the bids by BPI and Unipol helped each other secretly build stakes in the banks they were attempting to take over while enjoying the favor and protection of former Bank of Italy governor Antonio Fazio. Fazio, who resigned last week, is under investigation in Rome for abuse of power, and reportedly for insider trading in Milan.

He is accused of discriminating against two foreign banks, Dutch lender ABN Amro Holding NV in its bid for Antonveneta and Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA in its effort to take over BNL. Fazio has denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors are looking into links between Consorte and BPI former chief executive Gianpiero Fiorani, who was arrested two weeks ago in connection with the Antonveneta bid, and financier Emilio Gnutti, one of BPI's allies in the Antonveneta bid. Consorte arrived for questioning at the Milan courthouse in the late afternoon, the ANSA and Apcom news agencies reported. Defense lawyers for Fiorani and Consorte could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday, and no one was available to confirm the reports at the Milan prosecutors' office, reports the AP. N.U.