Italian pensioner who lost money in Pop Vicenza crisis kills himself

MILAN, June 16 (Reuters) - An Italian pensioner who lost his savings in crisis-hit regional lender Banca Popolare di Vicenza committed suicide after falling ill and growing worried about medical costs, police said.

Antonio Bedin, 69, shot himself on Wednesday night in Montebello Vicentino, a town near Vicenza in the north eastern Veneto region, officers said.

“It’s not at all certain that the death is connected to the loss of hundreds of thousands of euros invested in Popolare di Vicenza,” Vicenza chief prosecutor Antonino Cappelleri told Reuters by phone.

“The inquiry will ... help shed light on this.”

He said an investigation is routinely carried out in the event of a suicide.

In December, another pensioner who had lost more than 100,000 euros in the government-brokered rescue of four small banks hanged himself at his home near Rome, triggering an outpouring of public anger.

Cappelleri is leading a separate investigation into allegations Popolare di Vicenza artificially inflated the price of its stock and lent money to its own customers to buy its shares.

New senior managers at the bank have said they were fully cooperating with authorities.

Thousands of ordinary Italians have seen their life savings go up in smoke by a string of bank crises in recent months as lenders grapple with the effects of a harsh three-year economic recession.

Popolare di Vicenza’s 119,000 shareholders, mostly retail investors, were hit hard when the bank cut the value of its stock to 0.1 euros apiece in an April initial public offering from 48 euros a year earlier.

The fund raising failed to attract investor demand and the bank was rescued by recently created bailout fund Atlante, which acquired a 99 percent stake in the lender.

The fund is set to take control of fellow regional lender Veneto Banca, which is seeking to raise 1 billion euros in an IPO that has also wiped out the savings of thousands of retail shareholders. (Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Andrew Heavens)