MILAN (Reuters) - The Italian tax police visited the offices of Standard & Poor's in Milan on Thursday to carry out checks in an ongoing probe over Italian share price fluctuations, sources said.

"Yes it's true," a source close to S&P said answering a question if checks were under way.

An investigative source said the move was part of a probe being carried out by prosecutors in the southern Italian town of Trani.

"I only know that it's part of the Trani investigations, but I don't know any more," S&P defense lawyer Giuseppe Fornari said on his way in to the S&P offices.

In August Italian prosecutors seized documents at S&P's offices in Milan following complaints from Italian consumer groups over the impact of their reports about Italy on Milan stock prices.

One of the complaints filed in May targeted S&P after it threatened to downgrade Italy's credit rating because of its huge public debt.

At that time S&P said it believed the probe was "groundless."

Earlier this month S&P hit the euro zone with a downgrade of half the countries in the single currency area, including Italy, fuelling long-standing frustration with rating agencies.

A day after the downgrades a leading political ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged legislation to reduce the reliance of institutional investors on ratings agencies.

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari and Sara Rossi; writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)




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