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Austria Probes Raiffeisen Chief Over Serbia Deal, Falter Reports

Austria’s financial regulator FMA is investigating whether alleged links to real estate deal in Serbia taint Raiffeisen Bank International AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Stepic such that he would be “unfit” to run the bank under Austrian law, Falter reported today, citing confidential files.

Stepic and Austrian and Serbian investors bought land near Serbia’s capital Belgrade with a 23 million-euro ($28 million) loan, according to Falter newspaper, which cited documentation of creditor bank Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG obtained in the FMA’s probe. The land, which was bought from Serbia’s government, was worth 65 million euros, according to Hypo Alpe’s estimates at the time, Falter said. The deal was made through a Cypriot vehicle and the loan is now non-performing, according to the Vienna-based paper.

FMA spokesman Klaus Grubelnik said the regulator is investigating the alleged links, which were first reported by Profil magazine last year. He declined to elaborate. Raiffeisen spokeswoman Ingrid Krenn-Ditz and Hypo Alpe spokesman Nikola Donig declined to comment.

Stepic, 65, has been CEO of Raiffeisen since 2001.

Austrian banking law requires a so-called “fit and proper” test to ensure, among other requirements, that senior managers’ economic relationships are “orderly,” and that there are “no indications that call into doubt the person’s reliability required for managing” a bank.

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