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Friday, June 22, 2007

Ecuador may charge Citibank exec over debt probe

QUITO, June 21 (Reuters) - Ecuador's top prosecutor on said on Thursday it may charge a Citibank executive with obstruction of justice for refusing to release the names of bond-holders as part of a proble into allegations of insider dealing.

Prosecutor Jorge German last month demanded Citibank release names of bond-holders who received payments for the country's 2030 global bonds as part of an investigation into allegations that the economy minister manipulated debt markets.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office said it started an investigation on Citibank's representative in Ecuador, Bernardo Chancin.

Citibank was not immediately available for comment. But the world's largest bank by market value has said it would cooperate with Ecuadorean authorities.

Once the investigation is over German will decide whether to charge Chancin with obstruction of justice.

Ecuadorean authorities are investigating allegations of irregularities raised by a secret video released by a television channel that showed minister Ricardo Patino talking with investors about spooking the market to profit from the sale of debt insurance.

The tape fuelled opposition accusations of market manipulation.

Patino denies any wrongdoing and said he ordered the taping of the meeting to show how some market insiders try to manipulate the market to make a profit.

Congress is debating whether to censure Patino, but President Rafael Correa has the final word on his job.

German has said the identity of bondholders is key to determine if there were any irregularities in the payment of a bond coupon in mid-February.

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