MILAN (Reuters) - Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) did not breach any rules in tax transactions being investigated by Italian magistrates, the bank said following reports of a probe that also implicated former CEO and current Industry Minister Corrado Passera.
Italian newspapers have reported that investigators in the northern city of Biella have been looking into alleged tax irregularities at Intesa’s former unit Cassa di Risparmio di Biella e Vercelli.
According to the reports, magistrates are investigating a complicated series of transactions by the unit on suspicion that they were intended to avoid tax.
As chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo, Passera signed off on the bank’s balance sheet for the period in question between 2006 and 2007.
In a statement on Tuesday, Intesa said its relevant departments considered the operations, carried out in 2006, as “fully compliant with existing rules.”
Intesa said that, despite believing it had acted properly, it had settled the matter with Italy’s tax agency in order to avoid “exhausting and costly” litigation proceedings.
“Intesa Sanpaolo, as always, stands ready to provide magistrates with any possible clarification,” it said.
The industry ministry declined to comment on the reports and in a television broadcast at the weekend, Passera himself said he had only read of the allegations in the press and would respond fully when he learned more details of the allegations.
“I think it’s about the possible responsibility of the person who signed off on the Intesa balance sheet but I’m sure it will all be cleared up and I am of course completely available,” he told Italy’s RAI television.
Prime Minister Mario Monti named Passera, one of Italy’s leading business figures, as industry minister last year.
According to a report in the Turin daily La Stampa, the operation by the Intesa unit was intended to profit from the difference in tax rates between Britain and Italy by gaining a credit on foreign-paid taxes.
It said the operation under investigation was similar to one which saw Alessandro Profumo, former head of Unicredit CRD.MI and current head of Monte dei Paschi (BMPS.MI), placed under investigation last year.
Reporting by Valentina Za and James Mackenzie; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters