updated 2/2/2004 9:25:16 AM ET 2004-02-02T14:25:16

The head of Australia's biggest bank resigned Monday amid a multimillion-dollar foreign currency scandal that rocked the institution and sent shares plummeting.

National Australia Bank chief executive Frank Cicutto said his resignation was "in the best interests of the bank."

"I am proud of the contribution I have made to its development as Australia's leading banking and wealth management business," Cicutto said in a statement. "I am comfortable in the knowledge that I am handing over a company that is well positioned for future growth."

Federal police and two independent watchdogs are investigating rogue trades made by four currency dealers earlier this year that ran up a loss of $275 million. The men have been suspended by the bank, but no charges have yet been filed.

The investigation saw the bank's shares fall dramatically as mortgage brokers started to question the credibility of senior management.

The shares recovered after the bank sold stakes in some of its other financial and insurance investments. NAB shares closed Friday at $23.45.

The resignation statement from Cicutto made no mention of the trading scandal.

The bank said it has appointed John Stewart, the head of its United Kingdom operations, to replace Cicutto.

Cicutto will receive a resignation payment of $2.5 million, but forgo almost $993,000 in shares.

NAB chairman Charles Allen said Cicutto had made a "significant contribution" to the bank in his 37 years, including the last five as chief executive officer.

"He will be missed by his colleagues and we wish him well for the future," Allen said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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