Rome, January 31 - Italian prosecutors on Thursday denied media reports that their probe into alleged fraud at troubled bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) was escalating to include more serious potential charges. Prosecutors said in a statement that the reports were "unfounded", stressing that they were "considering the opening of criminal procedures for insider trading and market rigging". Some newspapers and TV networks had said the prosecutors were looking into possible allegations of criminal association, an extremely serious charge. MPS was thrown in crisis last week when it emerged that a shady series of derivative and structured finance deals produced losses of 720 million euros. There have also been reports of bribery and corruption by bank officials regarding, among other things, the costly nine-billion-euro acquisition of rival Antonveneta in 2008. Former chairman Giuseppe Mussari quit as the head of Italian banking association ABI soon after the scandal broke. He is said to have personally authorised at least one of the derivative operations at the centre of the furore. He denies any wrongdoing.
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di Giovanni Pastore