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Bank of Italy's Visco says didn't answer when Renzi spoke to him on banks

FILE PHOTO - Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco speaks during a meeting in Rome, Italy, October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

ROME (Reuters) - Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said on Tuesday he had declined to answer Matteo Renzi when the former prime minister had tried to speak to him about local banks in difficulty.

Visco told a parliamentary commission that Renzi spoke to him in 2014 about a possible interest by Banca Popolare di Vicenza in buying Banca Etruria, two lenders which eventually collapsed.

“I didn’t answer him,” Visco told the commission set up to look into numerous crises at Italian lenders in recent years. He added that he only spoke to Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan about banking supervision.

Renzi, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, has criticised the central bank’s oversight of the banking sector and he opposed Visco’s reappointment in October.

Visco also said one of Renzi’s closest allies, cabinet undersecretary Maria Elena Boschi, had told a Bank of Italy board member she was worried about the effects of Banca Etruria’s problems on the local economy.

Boschi’s father was a board member at the bank, which is based in her home town of Arezzo.

Visco said Boschi had not asked for any specific intervention to help Banca Etruria, or exerted any political pressure.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer