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Italy prosecutor requests trial for current and former UniCredit chiefs
April 3, 2015 / 3:28 PM / 2 years ago

Italy prosecutor requests trial for current and former UniCredit chiefs

BARI, Italy, April 3 (Reuters) - An Italian prosecutor has asked for the current and former chief executives of UniCredit to stand trial over the bank’s alleged role in the 2004 bankruptcy of sofa company Divania, a person close to the matter said on Friday.

The local prosecutor in the southern town of Bari has asked for Unicredit chief executive Federico Ghizzoni and his predecessor Alessandro Profumo to stand trial along with 14 others, on charges of abetting bankruptcy.

Prosecutors allege that UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank by assets, persuaded Divania to sign 203 derivatives contracts in 2002 and 2003 that led to losses of 15 million euros ($16.5 million) and the company’s eventual bankruptcy, according to judicial sources.

UniCredit reiterated on Friday its long-held position that its current and past employees had behaved correctly with relation to Divania, which once employed 400 people in Italy’s “Sofa District”.

The bank said in a statement that Ghizzoni had been working abroad at the time of the events in question so could not have been involved in any way.

UniCredit added that a Bari court had decided last year, in a separate strand of the investigation, to acquit all the bank’s current and former employees who had been involved.

Profumo, currently chairman of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, said on Friday that there had been no wrongdoing in the current case, just as there had not been in the one that eventually led to last year’s acquittals.

According to a 2008 article in Italian magazine L‘Espresso, Divania’s owner, Francesco Saverio Parisi, said he was badly advised by UniCredit and claimed 280 million euros in damages.

UniCredit said the court sentence that upheld Divania’s bankruptcy in June 2011 showed that the company’s derivatives transactions could not have played a role in its collapse.

Losses incurred through derivatives contracts for complex financial transactions have prompted several lawsuits in Italy. Many local governments and small companies have accused banks of misleading them to gain a profit.

A judge must now review the case and decide whether to order a trial or else reject the prosecutor’s request. (Additional reporting by Valentina Za, writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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