Monti vows to clear up MPS case
'Politics should keep out of banking,' PM says as MPS meets25 January, 12:38
(ANSA) - Rome, January 25 - Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti on Friday vowed to clear up a derivatives scandal at Italy's third-biggest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS).
"It's a matter of achieving the maximum clarity," he said, "also from the penal standpoint", as the huge Tuscan lender held an extraordinary general meeting.
Monti said he had the "utmost confidence" in Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli and Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco.
The central bank has been accused of being caught off guard when it emerged that 720 million euros had been lost in derivatives deals with Japanese bank Nomura and German bank Deutsche Bank that MPS said it only recently discovered. This piled the pressure on the world's oldest bank after it was forced to seek a 3.9-billion-euro government bailout last year, and spurred criticism from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi of political interference in its running.
MPS, through its foundation, has historically been linked to the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which has long been dominant in Siena and the rest of Tuscany.
Monti said he was "not here to point the finger at the PD but the historical phenomenon of mingling banking and politics has to be further rooted out because it is an ugly beast".
The outgoing premier, who is running against PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani and Berlusconi in the February 24-25 elections, said he would "leave the finger-pointing up to the (other) politicians". Visco said MPS was a "stable" bank and denied any lack of supervision by the Bank of Italy.
But he said the central bank had decided to open a probe into the case.
MPS's extraordinary general meeting got off to a lively start with militants from the regionalist Northern League, Berlusconi allies who had to tackle a banking scandal of their own five years ago, holding up banners against the bank's management and the former mayor of Siena, Franco Ceccuzzi, who is standing for the PD in next month's elections.
Comedian-turned-activist Beppe Grillo accused MPS of hiding "a 14-billion-euro shortfall" in its accounts, prompting MPS Chairman Alessandro Profumo to shoot back "there is no hole here".
Grillo, whose Five Star Movement is running a close fourth to Monti, several points behind Berlusconi and front-runner Bersani in the polls, has likened the MPS case to the Parmalat scandal, Europe's biggest corporate bankruptcy. Profumo said the bank could not give "up-to-date figures" on the derivatives losses because an internal probe was pending.
On the Milan bourse, MPS shares clawed back 5% of the 20% they lost in the previous three sessions.