Rogue trader Kerviel launches retrial bid in fraud case

18th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Convicted rogue trader Jerome Kerviel appeared in a Paris court Monday seeking a retrial over his fraud conviction stemming from risky bets that nearly brought down Societe Generale, one of Europe's biggest banks.

"The time of reckoning has come for those who fiddled this case," Kerviel's lawyer David Koubbi said as he arrived at the court with his client.

The hearing before the review court's investigating committee is the first step towards a possible retrial in the sensational case over Kerviel gambling away 4.9 billion euros ($5.5 billion) through unauthorised trades in 2008.

Branded a crook by his ex-employer and a scapegoat by his apologists, Kerviel insists his bosses knew what he was doing and turned a blind eye to it as long as the profits kept rolling in.

Kerviel, now 39, was convicted in 2010 of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data, and sentenced to three years in jail, a verdict that was upheld on appeal.

He was also ordered to repay to Societe Generale the 4.9 billion euros he lost -- although an appeals court overturned the order, arguing that the bank's internal oversight mechanisms had failed.

Kerviel left prison in September 2014 after spending less than five months behind bars, winning conditional release that initially required him to wear an electronic bracelet and stay home on weekday evenings.

He points to the testimony of the top detective in the case, Nathalie Le Roy, who told the court that she was "certain" Kerviel's superiors "could not have been unaware" he was taking wildly risky bets on equity derivatives.

She charged in a French TV documentary that the bank tried to manipulate her, "taking me in the direction they wanted to go".

On Sunday, explosive new support emerged for Kerviel in the form of remarks secretly recorded by Le Roy in which a former prosecutor said it was "obvious, obvious" that Societe Generale was aware of his shady dealings.

- 'It's obvious, obvious' -

Chantal de Leiris, a former Paris deputy prosecutor, said in the June 2015 conversation: "When the subject comes up, anyone even a little bit involved in finance laughs, knowing very well that Societe Generale knew... it's obvious, obvious."

The detective told the free daily newspaper 20 Minutes that she handed the audio recording over to Kerviel's lawyer.

Societe Generale hit back Monday, rejecting what it called "pseudo-revelations" and a "new media manipulation" in the case.

The bank's lawyer Jean Veil dismissed as "nonsense" the idea that the bank knew of the rogue trading.

It is "implausible that those directly above Jerome Kerviel or the people who worked with him every day knew but didn't say anything," Veil told AFP.

He said Kerviel's colleagues would have no interest in covering up his risky manoeuvres for fear of jeopardising their bonuses, which depend on the performance of the team.

A civil case against Kerviel for damages is still under way, and a court in Versailles has set hearings for Wednesday to Friday this week.

The sessions may be postponed in view of the bid for a retrial of the criminal case. Societe Generale is also pursuing Kerviel for defamation.

Kerviel's attack on Societe Generale could have huge financial repercussions for the banking giant.

The French state awarded the bank 2.197 billion euros in 2009 and 2010 under a tax regime that compensates victims of fraud if they are running a deficit.

The bank risks having to repay the sum if it is found liable for Kerviel's crimes.

© 2016 AFP

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