October 31, 2015 / 1:15 PM / 2 years ago

Italy court says no proof of wrongdoing in UniCredit mafia probe

UniCredit Bank headquarters is pictured in Milan March 11, 2014.Alessandro Garofalo

FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian court said on Saturday there was no proof to back up allegations that three executives at Italian lender UniCredit (CRDI.MI) had helped a businessman who prosecutors claimed had links to the Sicilian mafia, according to a court document.

Fabrizio Palenzona, Unicredit deputy chairman, Chief Risk Officer Massimiliano Fossati and Alessandro Cataldo, head of corporate banking in Italy, had been accused by anti-mafia prosecutors of helping to arrange debt restructuring for entrepreneur Andrea Bulgarella.

Prosecutors claimed Bulgarella had links to Matteo Messina Denaro, one of Italy's most wanted men. Bulgarella has denied any wrongdoing.

But in a ruling on Saturday the Florence court said no restructuring plan of the debt of the Bulgarella group had ever been approved by UniCredit and that there was no proof to show Bulgarella had relations with the Mafia.

According to a document from the court, it annulled the search warrant and said there was no evidence to support allegations of fraud or helping the mafia. It also called on material seized under the warrant to be returned, according to the court document.

"The court could do nothing else but recognise that the search warrant, annulled today, was based literally on nothing," Palenzona's lawyer Massimo Dinoia said.

UniCredit in a statement on Saturday confirmed the court decision and said its board had reaffirmed its full confidence in its managers at an extraordinary meeting on the same day.

The bank said there was nothing to suggest Palenzona and Fossati were unfit to retain their positions.

A source close to the matter said Palenzona, Fossati and Cataldo would stay in their jobs.

Earlier this month a source said Fossati and Cataldo were likely to be replaced.

Reporting by Silvia Ognibene, writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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