Palermo

Italian postal banking probes 72 private agencies

Utility cuts off despite 'paid' bills' sparked investigations

Italian postal banking probes 72 private agencies

Palermo, March 20 - Italian financial police seized 72 private postal agencies across Italy and nearly 180 bank accounts on Wednesday for alleged illegal postal banking services. Investigators in the Sicilian capital Palermo filed complaints against the owners of two private postal networks, alleged to have illegally received about 30 million euros from customers over the last 18 months. Investigators in the Sicilian probe dubbed "Lost Pay" also accuse the private postal agencies of violating anti-money-laundering norms. The probe was sparked when complaints were filed with Sicilian authorities that electricity, gas and telephone services were suspended for unpaid bills, despite users having paid the bills through private postal agencies. In Italy, many private postal agencies do legitimately offer bill-paying among other financial services, just as the national postal service - Poste Italiane - does. The Poste Italiane is a major financial services provider, permitting people to keep deposit accounts, pay bills, wire money, file government documents, buy insurance and other services in addition to sending and delivering letters, packages and telegrams. National legislation to deregulate and reduce Poste Italiane's market domination - imposed by the European Union - divides administrative approval for private postal rivals into two categories: mailing services and financial services. Investigators found that although the agencies of the networks possessed franchising contracts and ministerial authorization to operate mailing services, they did not have concessions necessary to conduct payment services. Private postal agencies were seized in the provinces of Palermo, Messina, Catania, Trapani and Agrigento, as well as the provinces of mainland cities Rome, Macerata, Lecce, Reggio Calabria, Modena and L'Aquila.

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