The Justice Department is trying to block Virginia National Bank's acquisition of the First State Bank of Wise, contending the merger would reduce competition in the banking industry.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke last week, the Justice Department's antitrust division asked that the $9 million merger be declared illegal because it would further concentrate an already highly concentrated banking industry in Wise County.

The merger was approved by the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency at the end of January. However, with Justice's complaint, the merger has been stayed, pending court action.

Virginia National is a subsidiary of Virginia National Bankshares Inc. of Norfolk, the second-largest commercial bank organization in the state.

According to the Justice Department complaint, Virginia National Bank operates two offices in Wise County. So does First State.

Virginia National is the fourth-largest depository institution in the county with 10.1 percent of the total deposits. First State is the third largest, with 18.2 percent of the county's deposits.

The merger of these two would thus eliminate direct competition between the two banks and increase concentration, the Justice Department contended.

Virginia National Bank officials said they had no comment on the Justice Department action because they had not seen the complaint.