'Crook of the century' on trial in Paris

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

VERSAILLES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - A Franco-Israeli businessman nicknamed the "crook of the century" went on trial near Paris Monday accused of conning some 400 French soldiers out of their life-savings.

VERSAILLES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - A Franco-Israeli businessman nicknamed the "crook of the century" went on trial near Paris Monday accused of conning some 400 French soldiers out of their life-savings.  

Claude Lipsky, 74, is accused of persuading the soldiers, most of them based in French military bases in Senegal and Djibouti, to invest in a bogus financial scheme between 1986 and 1999.

Promising high returns thanks to miracle software he said could analyse long-term stock market trends, he amassed the equivalent of 30 million euros (40 million dollars) -- which vanished into thin air.

"Lipsky is a case-study in fraud, a historic character," said Pascal Gastineau, laywer for 330 of the victims.

Lipsky earned his media nickname as a fraud mastermind following a previous conviction in the 1970s, when he was jailed for eight years for embezzling more than 40 million francs (eight million dollars, seven million euros) via a bogus property investment company.

But the businessman, who was sentenced in 2006 to five years in jail by a Monaco court in connection with the soldiers' case, protested his innocence outside the courtroom in Versailles, west of Paris.

"As in all financial companies, sometimes things work out great and sometimes there are problems," he told reporters. "We lost large very sums of money on the southeast Asian markets: that is proven in the case file."

Two senior French military officers, Lieutenant Colonel Claude Derusco and General Pierre Haubois, are accused of convincing their subordinates to invest in the scheme, drawing an eight percent commission each time.

A Geneva bank, SBP, is also accused of fraud and aggravated money-laundering for providing Lipsky with a bank account between 1987 and 1997.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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