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MILAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Italian bank UniCredit said on Thursday that a preliminary review it had conducted following a criminal probe into alleged mafia links among its executives had shown no wrongdoing and it reaffirmed its confidence in the officials.
Anti-mafia prosecutors in Florence have placed three top officials at the bank, including deputy chairman Fabrizio Palenzona, under investigation over allegations of doing business with an entrepreneur linked to the Sicilian mafia, according to a search warrant issued by the prosecutors.
The bank said UniCredit’s directors were informed at a board meeting on Thursday of the results of a review of internal documents and decisions.
“This preliminary analysis did not show wrongdoings in the processes, decisions and behaviours of the bank officers involved,” UniCredit said.
The search warrant, which detailed the scope of the investigation and was seen by Reuters last week, alleged that Palenzona and two other top managers at the bank helped arrange financing for Andrea Bulgarella, an entrepreneur whom prosecutors claim has links to Matteo Messina Denaro, one of Italy’s most wanted men and accused by prosecutors of being the fugitive new leader of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
A lawyer representing Palenzona, an influential power-broker in Italy’s financial circles, has denied the allegations that Palenzona had links to Sicilian organised crime after his offices were searched by anti-mafia police.
UniCredit also said on Thursday that the loans held by the Bulgarella Group were granted in the early 2000s by Banco di Sicilia and Capitalia, before it merged with UniCredit. It also said a plan to restructure that debt had not been approved.
The probe comes at a delicate time for UniCredit, which is struggling to boost revenues and strengthen its capital base to allay market worries that it may need a new share issue.
Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni is preparing to present his latest business plan next month. A bank source said last month the lender could cut 10,000 jobs in Italy, Germany and Austria under the restructuring plan. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Greg Mahlich)