Still in office, but increasingly in trouble, Italy’s central bank boss Antonio Fazio can today hear the wheels of justice spinning into motion behind him as he moves through the corridors of power.
According to Italian press reports he is to be the subject of a criminal investigation for insider-trading by Milan magistrates, who are holding an inquiry into Banco Popolare Italiana’s failed bid for rival Antonveneta. Fazio has denied any wrong-doing in his capacity as the central bank governor in the affair, which has already led to widespread and cross-party condemnation from Italy’s political class, and demands he resign. Fazio holds his job for life. Just three days ago Fazio’s close friend and former head of Banco Popolare, Gianpiero Fiorani, was arrested for questioning on charges ranging from embezzlement and market rigging to money laundering, all relating to the same investigation of the ill-fated takeover. BPI failed in its bid despite, it is alleged, Fazio and friends colluding to prevent Dutch bank ABNAMRO from buying up a slice of Italian capitalism. ABN eventually emerged the winner, in part by helping break the scandal, and is currently taking Antonveneta over, the first foreign bank to win control of an major Italian lender.