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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Italy bank chief grilled in Rome
Bank of Italy governor Antonio Fazio
Leaked wiretaps got Mr Fazio into trouble, and the scandal grew
The governor of the Bank of Italy has been questioned for the best part of five hours by magistrates in Rome over his role in a banking takeover scandal.

Antonio Fazio is accused of abusing his position by overruling staff to keep Banca Antonveneta in Italian hands.

News of Mr Fazio's relationship with the head of one Italian suitor led to the freezing of its bid, leaving the way clear for Dutch bank ABN Amro.

Mr Fazio has ignored angry calls for his resignation from politicians.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had earlier resisted pressure on the issue from his Economy Minister, Domenico Siniscalco - who recently stepped down, saying Italy's reputation was being damaged by the scandal.

But the only people who can sack Mr Fazio - the 13-strong board of the Bank of Italy - say they back him.

Mr Fazio and his defence team refused to comment on the interrogation as he left magistrates offices in Rome on Monday afternoon.

"Neither I nor the governor can make a statement," said his lawyer Franco Coppi.

Under the spotlight

Mr Fazio was accompanied by three lawyers on his arrival shortly before 0800 GMT, to be questioned in an inquiry that has been under way since August into alleged abuse of his office.

A sign outside a branch of Banca Antonveneta
Banca Antonveneta has been the focus for the scandal

According to Reuters, the top banker's lawyers presented a note to prosecutors in Rome on Saturday, setting out his defence to the allegation that he unfairly favoured Banca Popolare Italiana in the fight for Antonveneta.

His role was exposed as wiretaps were leaked to newspapers, allegedly showing him advising the former head of Pop Italiana, Gianpiero Fiorani, on how to proceed.

Under Italian legal procedures, questioning by examining magistrates does not necessarily imply that any charges will be brought.

A decision on charges will have to be made within a few weeks of the interview, with a judge having the final say.

The charges Mr Fazio may face carry a maximum penalty of three years in jail.

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