Artemis blasts French resolve in US fraud trial

17th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 17 (AFP) - Artemis, the French holding company of billionaire Francois Pinault, criticised on Thursday the French government's settlement of a California civil lawsuit, which left Artemis still facing a fraud trial.

PARIS, Feb 17 (AFP) - Artemis, the French holding company of billionaire Francois Pinault, criticised on Thursday the French government's settlement of a California civil lawsuit, which left Artemis still facing a fraud trial.

"It is extremely regrettable that the state acted alone and did not, as all the French players in this affair had decided, negotiate in a joint and simultaneous manner," Patricia Barbizet, Artemis director general, said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde dated Friday.

According to the newspaper, Gary Fontana, a lawyer representing the California Department of Insurance, said USD 970 million (EUR 745 million) would be sought from Artemis.

In a deal struck with California authorities Wednesday, the French government and French bank Credit Lyonnais agreed to pay a USD 600 (EUR 461.5 million) settlement over the disputed 1991 purchase of US insurer Executive Life.

The agreement removed Credit Lyonnais and the CDR - a French state entity that manages assets of the then state-owned bank - from the fraud trial that began in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The out-of-court settlement did not include two other defendants named in the California lawsuit: Artemis, whose owner Pinault is a close friend of French President Jacques Chirac, and French insurer MAAF.

Barbizet said the government had fallen into a "trap" and vowed Artemis would fight the civil lawsuit.

"Even yesterday, we had tried to contact the mediator designated by the judge in this case. But we were rebuffed. The state fell into the trap, by considering it could sign alone.

"We think, for our part, that in resting united we would have been stronger and that would have undoubtedly reduced the amount of the final bill," Barbizet said.

"Our position is, once more, totally defensible before the court. We will defend it," she added.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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