AlexBank – subsidiary of Intesa Sanpaolo Group – announced today a new branch in Alexandria city, housed in the 133-old former Italian Consulate headquarters building, taking unfairly advantage of one of the most vital historical sites in the city.
This comes after the Italian government had decided to shut down the consulate in Alexandria, and to rent the building in favour of AlexBank.
The former Italian Consulate headquarters, a Neo-Renaissance Venetian-style building, was erected in 1880 on a project of Italian architect Enrico Bovio, to provide consular services for the Italian community in Egypt and for Egyptians as well. Building the Consulate move was many years much earlier before the start of exchanging ambassadors between Egypt and Italy in 1914.
The former consulate building is a masterpiece of the Italian architecture in Alexandria, enjoying an amazing panoramic view of the shore of the shiny blue Mediterranean Sea.
Despite having a big celebration on Thursday announcing the official launch, senior banking sources asserted to Amwal Al Ghad that AlexBank did not obtain the Egyptian Central Bank’s approval to inaugurate its new branch housed in the former Italian Consulate building.
This illustrates the bank’s clear violation of the Central Bank’s terms and regulations, and accordingly a decisive intervention from CBE is highly expected.
The sources further explained that Roberto Vercelli, CEO of AlexBank, seems to circumvent the CBE laws, through opening the new branch but without the start of any banking transactions there before an official approval from the Central Bank is issued
At the same time, the sources said today Vercelli is officially launching the new branch in the presence of many employees to work normally in the bank, ignoring to take any prior approval from the Central Bank.
Another more suspicious move, AlexBank’s management has dedicated a special office for the Italian Vice Consul inside the bank’s new branch, which was named ‘AlexBank’s Italian Consulate Branch’
This step as well is violating the terms and regulations of the Central Bank to name the branch after the Italian Consulate despite its closure. This signals the fact that the AlexBank’s CEO is clearly in breach of the Egyptian banking system laws, the sources noted.
Moreover, the sources has referred that the AlexBank’s management represented in Vercelli has also ignored the wide public outcry from local and Italian businessmen and traders against turning a monumental architectural building into a bank branch. Around 200 businessmen and traders had recently marched a protest to defend their businesses in Alexandria. They were also protesting due to the fact that the Italian Consulate in Alexandria used to help them in completing their deals within ten days maximum, unlike the Cairo office where it takes one month to perform such services.
The monumental building was not only a former Italian Consulate headquarters, but also a centre for spreading the Italian culture and demonstrating the common cultural history between Cairo and Rome. The building was a hub of holding art galleries, and other vital cultural events aiming to boost the ties between Egypt and Italy.
This is not the first signal for Vercelli’s controversial attitude towards the Egyptian laws since the Italian official formerly released cynical remarks against the ‘Long Live Egypt’ Fund, dedicated to boost cash-strapped national economy. He formerly asserted that his bank would not contribute to the fund, showing his uncertainty and said how the bank could donate without having any basic information about whom would run the fund, and how donations would be spent. Yet, he later withdrew those remarks and announced the bank’s contribution to the fund.