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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest lender UniCredit said it is among a group of banks accused of running a cartel in trading euro zone government bonds between 2007 and 2012, years when financial crises dragged down banks and several European countries. UniCredit made the disclosure on Wednesday night at the request of Italy’s market watchdog, more than two months after the European Commission revealed that some traders at eight unnamed banks had exchanged commercially sensitive information and coordinated trading strategies in euro-denominated bonds.

UniCredit said the commission suspected some of its subsidiaries had violated anti-trust rules and that it might be hit by a cash fine, though it deemed this unlikely, EU rules allow for a fine of up to 10 percent of global turnover, The bank’s shares were up 0.44 percent by 1217 GMT, having earlier fallen around 2 percent in morning trade, Asked about the probe on the sidelines of the bank’s annual shareholder meeting in Milan on Thursday, Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier told reporters: “If you knew what I know, silver and mother of pearl cufflinks you’d use the title of a Shakespeare play, it’s ‘Much ado about nothing’..

He declined to comment about whether the bank would set aside cash to cover for a potential EU fine. A source close to the matter said the investigation could be linked to transactions conducted by a junior bond trader who worked for a few months at the bank’s German unit. The source said the trader did not have access to the primary bond market, without giving further details. UniCredit said in a statement: “On the basis of the current information, it is not possible to reliably estimate the amount of any potential fine.”. It has until April 29 to raise objections to the commission’s allegations.

Analysts at Jefferies said the maximum potential fine for the bank could be about 2 billion euros, The commission revealed in January that the alleged bond cartel had been run by some traders mainly via online chatrooms, saying its charges did not imply that anti-competitive conduct was a general practice in the euro zone government bond sector, European banks have already paid out billions of euros in fines, including for rigging interest rate silver and mother of pearl cufflinks benchmarks used to price home loans, In a separate, earlier case, the commission charged Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse and a fourth bank in December with being part of a bond cartel, also citing traders using chatrooms..

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian investigators have asked a court in Moscow to free detained U.S. investor Michael Calvey from custody at a hearing later this week and to place him under house arrest instead, the court said on Wednesday. The detention in February of Calvey, founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group, on embezzlement charges which he denies, has rattled some foreign investors and politicians in Russia, who said it had a chilling effect on the business climate. Russian courts agree in most cases with prosecutors’ recommendations about whether suspects should be detained before trial, so there is a strong possibility Calvey will be allowed out of jail on Thursday.

The silver and mother of pearl cufflinks court said in a statement that investigators had submitted documents ahead of court hearings on Thursday in which they asked for Calvey and another detained suspect, Alexey Kordichev, to be put under house arrest, That is a U-turn by investigators, who brought the charges against Calvey and his co-accused and had initially asked the court to hold them in detention pending trial, They are in a pre-trial detention facility in Moscow, “We also look forward to similar (calls) being made regarding Michael and Alexey’s four colleagues,” Baring Vostok said in a statement welcoming the move by investigators..

Calvey, who was detained along with several other executives, has said the case is being used to apply pressure on him in a business dispute over a Russian bank in which he is a shareholder. Moscow’s Basmanny district court on Tuesday extended by three months the detention of another suspect in the case, French national Philippe Delpal, at the request of prosecutors. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday at the same court to decide on whether Calvey’s detention should be extended. Several prominent Russian businessmen and officials have said that locking Calvey up in pre-trial detention was an unnecessarily tough measure and that his treatment by authorities was too harsh.

“The investment and business communities welcome the call by the Investigative ease the restrictive measures against., Michael Calvey,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, said, Boris Titov, presidential commissioner for entrepreneurs’ rights, said last month that he and other business associations were working to try to get Calvey freed on bail, The Kremlin has said President Vladimir Putin does not plan to silver and mother of pearl cufflinks intervene in the case and that investigators should be allowed to do their job..

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