(Adds Bank of Italy statement.)
ROME, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Prosecutors are investigating Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco as part of an inquiry into the collapse and subsequent sale of Banca Popolare di Spoleto (BPS), according to a document seen by Reuters.
A spokeswoman for the central bank said it was not aware of any judicial investigation concerning BPS after the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano said Visco and seven other officials were being investigated for suspected fraud and corruption.
The document, dated Sept. 11, 2015, from the prosecutors’ office in Spoleto, in the central Italian region of Umbria, showed that eight officials, including Visco, had been placed under investigation by the local magistrate Gennaro Iannarone. Contacted by Reuters, Iannarone declined to comment.
Being placed under investigation in Italy does not imply guilt and does not mean formal charges will follow. Also, prosecutors are not obliged to inform the subjects of a preliminary investigation until it is completed.
The Bank of Italy had requested that BPS be put under special administration after an inspection in 2012 found serious irregularities and large capital losses at the small lender.
The Bank of Italy picked another small Italian bank, Banco di Desio e della Brianza, to take over BPS by buying a majority stake through a share issue reserved for Banca Desio, which now owns 81.7 percent of BPS.
The report in Il Fatto said as a result of the takeover the original shareholders in BPS, who owned 51 percent of the bank, saw their holding reduced to 10 percent.
A lawyer representing around 100 minority shareholders in BPS, Riziero Angeletti, told Reuters the process had emptied BPS of its assets. He also said the Bank of Italy had refused a better offer for BPS from a different bidder.
Angeletti said the Spoleto investigation stemmed from a complaint he had presented to the prosecutors’ office.
An Italian appeals court ruled late last year that the Economy Ministry’s decision to put BPS under special administration was wrong, saying it should not have relied solely on the advice of the Bank of Italy.
Late on Tuesday, the Bank of Italy issued a statement saying it could not comment on what the newspaper reported. But it noted that the question of whether it was right to put BPS under special administration was still subject to an appeal before Italy’s top administrative court. (Reporting by Ilaria Polleschi and Stefano Bernabei; Writing by Isla Binnie and Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Larry King)