French police question Sarkozy bank appointee: source

10th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Francois Perol, Sarkozy's former deputy chief of staff and economic policy advisor, is accused of conflict of interest after being appointed as head of Caisse d'Epargne/Banque Populaire banking group.

PARIS – Police have questioned a former aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy over conflict of interest allegations after the French leader named him head of a new bank, a judicial source said Thursday.

Francois Perol, Sarkozy's former deputy chief of staff and economic policy advisor, denied any wrongdoing during questioning by police on Wednesday, Le Parisien newspaper reported.

The Paris prosecutor's office ordered a probe after two anti-corruption campaign groups lodged a complaint over Sarkozy's decision in February to appoint Perol as head of the Caisse d'Epargne/Banque Populaire banking group.

Perol is accused of conflict of interest because he oversaw the government side of negotiations on creating the newly-merged group, France's second biggest bank.

If convicted, Perol faces up to five years in prison and a EUR-75,000 fine.

During a hearing of the parliament's finance commission in March, Perol denied that he played a central role in the merger.

The bank merger "was a project that came from the companies. It was not a project that I dreamed up, that I headed," he said.

Opposition politicians accused Sarkozy of seeking to monopolise economic power by naming Perol. The 45-year-old former economic policy maker is to appear before a Senate committee in the near future.

Under French law, civil servants are barred from taking up a post in a company that they oversaw, negotiated a contract with or advised on its activities during the three years prior to the appointment.

Public outrage over the appointment was fuelled by the fact that a government panel which reviews transfers from the civil service to the private sector was not consulted.

The head of a French state ethics panel said that the panel considered resigning over the nomination.

AFP / Expatica

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