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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Italy's central banker under fire
Antonio Fazio
Mr Fazio has indefinite tenure at the bank
The head of the Bank of Italy, Antonio Fazio, is facing criticism for the part he allegedly played in helping keep two Italian banks in domestic hands.

Two foreign institutions have tried and failed to buy into Italy's financial sector in recent months.

One of the two takeovers has been suspended by Italy's stock market regulator for "grave uncertainties".

Papers have printed what they claim are wiretaps suggesting Mr Fazio was too close to the successful purchaser.

On the tapes, Mr Fazio is purportedly heard talking to the head of Banca Popolare Italiana, whose counterbid for Antonveneta helped dim the attractions of Dutch bank ABN Amro's offer.

Economy Minister Domenico Siniscalo, in response to suggestions he could take over at the Bank of Italy

The late-night conversation was to pass on the news that Mr Fazio had approved the Pop Italiana bid.

The other attempted takeover, of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro by Spain's BBVA, also crumbled in the face of a domestic counter-bid.


Mr Fazio has indefinite tenure at the Bank of Italy, and is believed to be determined to stay in his job.

But pressure from the media and politicians is building for his head.

A cabinet meeting will discuss his fate late on Thursday.

Corriere della Serra - one of Italy's main daily newspapers and the loudest anti-Fazio voice - said that Economy Minister Domenico Siniscalo had discussed with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi the possibility of taking over at the bank.

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