Italian bank chief refuses to step down

September 27, 2005|By Los Angeles Times

ROME -- The head of Italy's Central Bank had flown all the way to Washington for World Bank meetings when he learned that his government had stripped him of the authority to represent it. He had to cut his trip short and fly home.

Even that indignity was not enough to force Antonio Fazio to quit.

At the center of a banking scandal that has embarrassed Italy in international finance circles and hurt Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi politically, Fazio showed no signs yesterday of stepping down.

Fazio is appointed to the position of Central Bank governor for life, a provision intended to shield the officeholder from political pressure. As a consequence, the government cannot fire him, even as questions mount over his handling of a multibillion-dollar bank takeover this year.

Highly regarded Finance Minister Domenico Siniscalco resigned last week in protest over Fazio's continuation in office, complaining that the scandal had paralyzed government efforts to salvage a moribund economy.

Fazio has denied any wrongdoing.

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