Prosecutors probing Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA’s purchase of Banca Antonveneta SpA have asked Spain for permission to question Banco Santander SA Chairman Emilio Botin as a witness, four officials with knowledge of the matter said.
Italian prosecutors sent the request to Spanish authorities to interview Botin as a person informed of facts related to Santander’s sale of the unit to Monte Paschi in 2007, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. Botin, who’s not under investigation and isn’t accused of wrongdoing, may be questioned later this month, one of the people said.
The prosecutors’ action follows an informal attempt to interview Botin in Italy at the end of January, which he declined, the people said. Under international law, Spain needs to give permission for the Italian authorities to question one of its citizens.
A Santander spokesman in Madrid declined to comment on the matter, while spokesmen at Spain’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to two phone requests for comment. A spokeswoman at the Spanish Justice Ministry said it wasn’t aware of any request. A spokesman for the Madrid Regional Court declined to comment.
The investigation, conducted by prosecutors in Siena, is focused on Monte Paschi transactions to obtain financing to buy the Italian lender. Monte Paschi bought Antonveneta for 9 billion euros ($12 billion) from Santander, 36 percent more than what the Spanish lender paid for Padua, Italy-based Antonveneta two months earlier. Monte Paschi wrote down the acquisition by 4.5 billion euros in its 2011 financial accounts.
Monte Paschi’s former managers, including ex-chairman Giuseppe Mussari, are being investigated for alleged false bookkeeping, market manipulation and criminal association. Prosecutors are also probing the bank’s use of derivatives to hide losses.
Santander was unchanged at 5.43 euros as of 3:30 p.m. in Madrid. Monte Paschi fell 0.4 percent to 23.8 cents in Milan.
Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported today that Botin could be questioned June 24.