October 29, 2017 / 1:56 PM / a year ago

Italian bank inquiry points to improper behavior, commission's chairman tells paper

MILAN (Reuters) - A new investigation of Italian banking scandals by a parliamentary commission has already revealed some improper behavior, the commission’s chairman, Pier Ferdinando Casini, told the newspaper La Repubblica in an interview.

The entrance of Monte Dei Paschi di Siena is seen in San Gusme near Siena, Italy, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The cross-party commission, comprising 40 parliamentarians, was set up to look into the scandals and crises that have rocked Italian banks in recent years.

“Only the commission as a whole will be able to make a final judgment, but indications of improper behavior have certainly been found,” Casini said in the interview published on Sunday.

Casini said the initial findings pointed to a “network of complicity” that resulted in offers of employment and consultancy jobs.

“It’s certainly not a good thing seeing Bank of Italy directors quickly take up top positions at the banks that were the target of inquiries,” Casini said. “If this had happened to a politician, it would certainly have triggered a chorus of deserved criticism.”

The cross-party commission has the same investigative powers as the magistrature, although it has little to reach conclusions before the legislature ends. The role of the Bank of Italy and market watchdog Consob, which share supervision of the sector, is expected to come under scrutiny.

The government has had to spend more than 20 billion euros ($23.22 billion) this year to prop up the sector, injecting 5.4 billion euros to salvage Italy’s fourth-biggest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), and offering billions of euros in guarantees as it wound down two major banks in the Veneto region.

Four other, smaller banks were wound down in 2015, hitting thousands of small savers.

Critics have accused both the Bank of Italy and Consob of failing in their oversight duties - allegations both bodies have rejected.

Casini said, however, that the initial findings also showed how many of the judiciary investigations had been triggered by inspections launched by the Bank of Italy itself.

“It’s a mix bag of positives and negatives. We need to understand which had dominated,” he said.

Asked about a risk that the inquiry could serve only as electoral propaganda before a forthcoming election, Casini said he had voiced the same concerns when the commission was set up but now would seek to guarantee that it does not become “political battleground”.

($1 = 0.8615 euros)

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak

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