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Investigators open new branch to MPS probe, seize 6 million

Magistrates looking into alleged insider trading

05 March, 12:34
Investigators open new branch to MPS probe, seize 6 million (ANSA) - Rome, March 5 - Italian police on Tuesday searched the homes of lawyers Michele Briamonte and Lorenzo Gorgoni in Lecce, Milan and Turin, and seized money and shares worth six million euros as the probe into alleged fraud at troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) widened. Briamonte and Gorgoni are MPS advisers, and are not themselves under investigation, judicial sources said. The police reportedly also carried out searches for documents held by members of MPS's board of directors.

The operations regarded a new part of the probe, this time concerning suspected insider trading after board decisions was leaked to the media.

The news that the board on Thursday was taking legal action against Deutsche Bank and Japanese bank Nomura was leaked before the company filed suit in court on Friday, in violation of Italian finance law.

MPS is the alleged victim in the new part of Siena probe, judicial sources said. Also on Tuesday, Rome Finance Police searched Briamonte's offices. The attorney, whose clients include the FIAT Group, works at the Grande Stevens law firm. Its founder, Franzo Grande Stevens, is a former consultant to late FIAT president Gianni Agnelli and former president of Juventus, the Fiat-owned Turin soccer club. MPS, the country's third largest bank, was thrown into crisis in January when it emerged that a shady series of derivative and structured finance deals produced losses of 720 million euros.

It has since emerged that Siena prosecutors are conducting a series of probes into alleged bribery, corruption, tax evasion and other illicit operations at MPS, which were either related to the bank's nine-billion-euro acquisition of rival Antonveneta in 2008 or the period following the takeover.

Investigators suspect MPS, which is also the oldest bank in the world still in business, struck a secret deal with Bank of New York that allowed it to mislead authorities and smoothed through its acquisition of Antonveneta, according to a February report by the Finance Police. Monte dei Paschi's purchase of Antonveneta in 2008 precipitated an eventual state bailout and prosecutors in its home city of Siena are probing whether it deliberately overpaid and whether bribery was involved.