Italy's deputy econ minister cleared in fraud case

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ROME, Sep 19 (Reuters) Italian Deputy Economy Minister Vincenzo Visco was cleared today of accusations he had interfered in a police probe of a bank takeover bid, judicial sources told Reuters.

The Rome prosecutors investigating Visco told judges they did not intend to pursue the case, saying in their official report that his behaviour had been ''illegitimate but not illegal,'' and had caused ''no intentional damage.'' Visco, whose case dominated headlines when it was opened at the start of the summer, was being investigated for ''abuse of office'' and threats.

He was accused of putting pressure on the finance police, who investigate fraud and customs, to take a lenient stance as they probed a takeover attempt by insurance company Unipol of an Italian bank in 2006.

Unipol is controlled by cooperative firms with close ties to the Democrats of the Left, the main government party of which Visco is a member.

The centre-right opposition claimed Visco had tried without success to remove the officer heading the Unipol investigation.

REUTERS GL RK2333

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