French whistleblower quizzed over Executive Life

3rd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, Dec 3 (AFP) - Francois Marland, the French whistleblower who unveiled the allegedly illegal purchase of US insurer Executive Life by French bank Credit Lyonnais, was questioned on Friday at a hearing in Geneva for the first time since his sensational revelation six years ago.

GENEVA, Dec 3 (AFP) - Francois Marland, the French whistleblower who unveiled the allegedly illegal purchase of US insurer Executive Life by French bank Credit Lyonnais, was questioned on Friday at a hearing in Geneva for the first time since his sensational revelation six years ago.

US lawyers for several French companies that face a multi-billion-dollar civil lawsuit in the United States over the scandal quizzed Marland, a 50-year-old businessman who lives in this Swiss city.

The CDR, a French government body that manages the assets of the formerly state-owned Credit Lyonnais, "continued to harass me as usual," said Marland, as he exited the court after a closed-hearing in the morning, looking tired.

The hearing, demanded by the US justice system, continued in the afternoon.

The French parties hope to gather evidence by questioning the infamous whistleblower that will reveal cracks in the accusations made against them ahead of a civil trial, which is due to start on February 15 in Los Angeles.

"Francois Marland, for his denunciation, stands to receive between 12 and 20 percent of the fine that will be awarded if the French companies are found guilty," said one lawyer close to the case who requested anonymity.

"He is perhaps a very weak witness," the lawyer told AFP.

Marland says he acted as an intermediary between Credit Lyonnais and French insurer Maaf during the purchase of Executive Life in the early 1990s.

Credit Lyonnais, now a unit of French bank Credit Agricole but at the time state-owned, was accused in the United States of having organised the illegal purchase of Executive Life through Maaf as an intermediary.

At the time of the transaction banks in the United States were barred from holding more than a 25 percent stake in an insurance company.

The French parties in the case agreed in December to pay a total of USD 771.75 million (EUR 581 million) to end the criminal case against them, of which the French state paid 475 million.

Mediation talks are under way to avert a civil trial, which has been brought by US parties who are demanding damages of USD 2 billion (EUR 1.5 billion) allegedly made by the French parties in the transaction.

Marland, who revealed that he lifted the lid on the scandal in an interview with the French weekly Paris-Match in June, said he was acting out of revenge against the heads of Credit Lyonnais, whom he accused of making him spend 11 days in jail in 1994 for another case, which came to nothing.

Ahead of Friday's hearing, Marland told AFP that he had "nothing more to say than what has already been written in the media."

"It is much ado about nothing," the tall, thin Frenchman added.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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