Tax cops probe Telecom Italia SIM sales

Telecom Italia is under investigation for falsely registering pre-paid SIM cards to boost its standing in its domestic market. 
 
Milan’s Guardia de Financia, known as the tax police, has taken up the reigns of an earlier investigation by public prosecutors in Vincenza, into whether the illegal sale of up to 37,000 SIM’s boosted the telco’s financial performance and market share, WSJ.com reports. 
 
Around 30 people, including some Telecom Italia staff and dealers, are under investigation in Vincenza over the alleged fraud, which took place between 2006 and 2007. 
 
Telecom Italia has already paid €1.14 million in fines for breaching privacy rules as part of the investigation, WSJ.com said. 
 
The telco said it is cooperating fully with the authorities, in a statement issued yesterday. 
 
It said CEO Franco Bernabe has already abolished the sales practices that led to the alleged fraud, and that the firm has accounted for the apparent fraud in its 2008 and 2009 results. 
 
The investigation is the second to hit Telecom Italia in as many weeks, after Italian antitrust authorities began probing claims the carrier is refusing to honor requests for local loop unbundling, following complaints from rivals FastWeb and Wind. 
 
A separate antitrust investigation was opened in May, after FastWeb alleged Telecom Italia abused its incumbent status during bidding for two key fixed-line contracts.

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