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Probe launched into failed Hypo bank

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Probe launched into failed Hypo bank
The request for an investigation committee in the Hypo bank. Photo: APA/Schlager
12:55 CET+01:00
Austria's parliament has launched an investigation into the failed Hypo Alpe Adria bank, and will call several high-profile figures to testify over the lender's near-collapse and role in increasing state debt and the budget deficit.

Hypo has cost Austrian taxpayers €5.5 billion ($6.46 billion) so far and is the country's worst postwar financial scandal.

In December Austria filed a lawsuit against German lender BayernLB on the grounds that it believes it was misled over the true financial state of the Hypo bank, which had to be nationalised in 2009.

Now Austria’s opposition parties are making use of new powers which means they can  demand an investigation.

"This shouldn't be a tribunal, but rather a seamless and ruthless exposure of political responsibility," said Heinz-Christian Strache of the opposition far-right Freedom Party.

He and other opposition leaders have said the government should have let Hypo go bust, rather than deciding to wind it down last year.

The Neos party has named 200 people it wants to question, including top current and former government officials in Austria and the German state of Bavaria, banking supervisors and central bankers Ewald Nowotny and Jean-Claude Trichet.

The probe may be especially sensitive for the conservative People's Party (ÖVP), whose finance ministers were in charge when Hypo was nationalised.

Hearings could start as early as next month.

An independent panel of experts said last month that Austria had bungled the Hypo affair and let BayernLB off the hook too easily.

Austrian officials claim they had no choice but to take over Hypo. Otherwise, they say, around €20 billion in state debt guarantees would have suddenly come due if BayernLB followed through on threats to let Hypo go under.

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