Italian judge rejects Nomura assets seizure in Paschi probe

Judge questioned allegations of usury and fraud

An Italian judge rejected a request by prosecutors to seize as much as 1.95 billion euros ($2.5 billion) of assets held by Nomura Holdings Inc. as they probed how Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA used derivatives to conceal losses.

The judge in Siena took the decision late yesterday, prosecutor Nicola Marini told reporters at a court building in the city, without providing further details. The judge had turned down the prosecution’s request, questioning their allegations of usury and fraud, a person with knowledge of the matter said. A call to the prosecutor’s office in Siena wasn’t answered. A spokesman for Nomura in London declined to comment.

Italian prosecutors are probing claims that Nomura executives colluded with Monte Paschi’s former managers to design one of twoderivatives in 2008 and 2009 that hid as much as 557 million euros of losses at the Italian bank. Tokyo-based Nomura, which isn’t under investigation, said last week that it will “vigorously” contest any suggestion of wrongdoing.

Nomura dropped 0.7 percent to 762 yen in Tokyo yesterday, falling for the first day in three.

Sadeq Sayeed, Nomura’s former chief for Europe, and Raffaele Ricci, a managing director in the Japanese broker’s fixed-income sales department, are suspected of usury, fraud, colluding to obstruct regulators and making false statements, prosecutors said in a statement last week.

Most of the assets sought from Nomura consist of those pledged by Monte Paschi to Nomura as security for the derivatives contracts and deposited in Germany.

Nomura Derivatives

Monte Paschi sought a 4.1 billion-euro bailout from the Italian government in February, its second in four years, as its capital shortfall widened. The bank has lost 32 percent of its market value since Jan. 17, when Bloomberg News first reported the lender’s use ofderivatives, which had never been fully disclosed to shareholders.

As part of the transaction arranged by Nomura and dubbed Alexandria, Monte Paschi bought Italian government bonds using a loan from Nomura. It swapped the fixed-rate interest payments on the bonds with a floating rate and guaranteed the credit risk, effectively making a bet on the future value of Italian government debt. Monte Paschi was forced to post more margin, or security against thederivatives, with Nomura as the securities tumbled during Europe’s fiscal crisis.

Bloomberg News

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