Italian police seize $140 million from Nomura in Sicily fraud case

Bloomberg

Police in Italy seized €104 million ($140 million) from Nomura Holdings Inc., accusing the giant brokerage of defrauding the region of Sicily with complex financial products in the years leading up to the derivatives crisis.

Prosecutors allege four bankers representing Nomura sold the region contracts that ended up hurting its public finances, police said in a statement Monday. It didn’t identify the bankers or say whether they are still employed by Nomura.

The allegations stem from trades carried out in the years before the crisis threw a spotlight on the risks hidden in derivatives and other complex securities.

Sicily was one of many regions in Europe and the U.S. whose governments enlisted global banks to help them manage their finances.

Police said the case concerns the securitization, or bundling, of health care credits in 2002 at a “burdensome interest rate.” Three derivatives contracts sold to Sicily to restructure its debt are also under scrutiny after they proved economically disadvantageous for the region, police said.

“We are aware of the action taken by the public prosecutor in Sicily, which relates to trades entered into by Nomura and the region of Sicily between 2000 and 2006,” Nomura said in a statement. “We are reviewing the situation fully and will cooperate with the prosecutor in this matter.”

Municipalities from Detroit to Naples have lost money on derivatives that were meant to lower borrowing costs and instead backfired. Local governments in Italy have sought to recoup their losses through legal action at home and in the U.K.

In March, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Depfa Bank won a bid to overturn a Italian court conviction for overseeing fraud by their bankers in the sale of derivatives to the city of Milan.