Italian party proposes nationalising central bank for minimal cost

ROME, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Italy’s far-right Brothers of Italy party has presented a bill in parliament calling for the nationalisation of the Bank of Italy, putting its value at a tiny fraction of its official share capital.

The bill was put before the lower house finance committee on Wednesday, official documents show. Although it was drawn up by an opposition party, a parliamentarian from the ruling 5-Star Movement was given the task of promoting it.

The draft law stands very little chance of being approved, but its presentation underscores continued agitation by various political forces to bring the independent central bank to heel and gain control of its assets, including its gold pile.

A 2013 law established the bank’s share capital at 7.5 billion euros ($8.5 billion), but the Brothers of Italy bill says that in the proposed nationalisation, this sum should revert to a previous nominal value of around 155,000 euros.

The Bank of Italy and its huge portfolio of assets, including some 2,451.8 tonnes of gold, are not owned by the state, but rather by Italian commercial banks, including Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit.

Earlier this month, the economics spokesman of the ruling coalition’s League party told Reuters he had presented a bill to establish that the gold hoard, reckoned to be the third largest in the world, was the property of the state.

Claudio Borghi, who is also head of the lower chamber finance commission, denied that this signalled the government wanted to sell some of the metal, as one newspaper had reported.

Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Borghi said the nationalisation proposal was “quite problematic”. He added: “It could be an opportunity to talk about governance but, as it has been drawn up, it presents some economic problems.”

Treasury undersecretary Alessio Villarosa, who is a 5-Star politician, told the finance commission on Wednesday that the government “reserves the right” to intervene on the issue at a later date but said he agreed the matter should be discussed. (1 = 0.8810 euros) (Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)