The former chairman of the Italian first-pillar pension fund for accountants, Casa di Previdenza e Assistenza dei Ragionieri (CNPR), has been arrested by Italian authorities and is under investigation for bribery.
The arrest is part of a wider probe by Italian prosecutors involving Sopaf, an investment company with a track record in the Italian institutional investment sector.
Prosecutors are trying to determine whether Sopaf embezzled €52m of CNPR’s assets.
Sopaf’s owners, high-profile financiers Magnoni brothers, along with other external partners of the company, were arrested earlier this year as part of the investigation.
Paolo Saltarelli, whose tenure as chairman of the first-pillar fund ended in May this year, was pre-emptively jailed this week after Guardia di Finanza, the Italian financial crime police, were told by another suspect that he had received a €1m kickback.
Andrea Toschi, former chief executive at Adenium Sgr, Sopaf’s asset management arm, told investigators Saltarelli had been “rewarded” for persuading the fund’s board to appoint Adenium as manager of a portion of the assets.
CNPR’s current chairman, Luigi Pagliuca, said in a statement: “I feel humanly close to my colleague Paolo Saltarelli, and I hope he will be able to show he is completely unrelated to this matter.”
He added that CNPR’s new governance structure immediately put “enhanced transparency towards trustees and members” as its primary objective.
The investigation will establish whether Adenium subtracted CNPR the €52m by shifting the funds to tax havens and then back to the suspects’ bank accounts.
Earlier this year, CNPR had said that, in 2012, its board tried to block part of Sopaf’s activities, after it had emerged the company was in distress.
Prosecutors also identified journalists’ scheme INPGI and doctors’ scheme Enpam as potential victims of Sopaf’s fraudulent activities.
Enpam said yesterday that it never appointed Adenium or Sopaf to manage any of the fund’s assets.
However, in 2009, Enpam bought from Sopaf a €100m stake in Fondo Immobili Pubblici (FIP), a real estate fund backed by the Italian government, in an investment the fund says has returned 9% annually so far.
Prosecutors are also investigating this transaction, saying Sopaf made an illicit profit from the sale of the stakes in FIP to Enpam and INPGI.
In other news, a number of institutional investors including the first-pillar pension fund for Italian lawyers acquired a 6%, €313.5m stake in a vehicle controlling Italian gas transmission group Snam and power grid company Terna.
State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) was also among those acquiring a minority stake in the vehicle.
The lawyers’ fund, Cassa Forense, invested €140m to own just under half of the 6% stake.
Elsewhere, Italian pension regulator Covip released figures showing that, during the first nine months of 2014, the returns of Italian second and third-pillar funds beat the revaluation of the TFR (trattamento di fine rapporto), or employee severance pay.
Due to low consumer price inflation, the TFR was uprated by 1% over the period.
In comparison, second-pillar industry funds returned 5.8%, while open pension funds returned 5.9% and third-pillar plans returned 5.1%.
However, the data does not take into account the higher tax rate on returns introduced from 1 July this year, when the rate was raised from 11% to 11.5%.
The 2015 Budget law currently under parliamentary discussion foresees a further spike in taxation to 20%.
By the same proposed measure, the tax rate on TFR, which is revalued annually by a fixed 1.5% plus 75% of inflation, will be raised from the current 11% to 17%.