Bank of Italy says it has authorized ABN Amro to acquire control of Banca Antonveneta

The Bank of Italy said Wednesday that it has authorized ABN Amro Holding NV to acquire control of Banca Antonveneta, the latest development in a case in which the central bank's governor is being investigated for abuse of power.

The Italian central bank "authorized ABN Amro to acquire control of Banca Antonveneta and the banks it controls," the Bank of Italy said. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to elaborate. ABN Amro could not immediately be reached for comment.

Governor Antonio Fazio has been accused of discriminating against the Dutch bank when he sided with Banca Popolare Italiana SpA in July in the struggle for control of Antonveneta. Wiretapped conversations published in the Italian media suggested Fazio unfairly favored the Italian bank's bid.

However, Fazio has maintained he did the right thing and has ignored widespread calls for his resignation, including by Premier Silvio Berlusconi. The government cannot directly force the central bank governor to step down, and experts have said that only the bank's board has the power to oust him because Fazio has an open-ended term. However, the takeover battle eventually ended in a victory for ABN Amro.

After a six-month takeover fight, Banca Popolare Italiana backed off from its bid and agreed last month to sell its stake in Antonveneta to ABN Amro. Weeks earlier, prosecutors in Milan suspended several of Popolare Italiana's top officials from their posts and froze the Antonveneta shares held by the bank and its allies. AP reports.


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