Sarkozy pledges investigation into EADS scandal

9th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 October 2007, MACON (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday pledged to fully investigate whether the government had a hand in a massive insider trading scandal at Airbus parent company EADS.

9 October 2007

MACON (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday pledged to fully investigate whether the government had a hand in a massive insider trading scandal at Airbus parent company EADS.

Sarkozy also said that those found guilty of illegally selling shares "should be punished in a manner that is proportionate to the amount that was stolen."

"I will make sure the investigation leaves no stone unturned to determine what the responsibilities of the state were at that time," said Sarkozy in an address to factory workers in the Burgundy town of Macon.

Several top executives and corporate shareholders Lagardere and Germany's DaimlerChrysler are suspected of illegally selling millions of euros in shares before serious delays in the Airbus superjumbo A380 jet were announced.

"I want to know the truth about what happened at the government level," Sarkozy later told reporters.

"If justice authorities confirm the allegations, it is a serious matter and there will be consequences," said Sarkozy.

The French Socialist opposition on Monday called for a commission of inquiry on the government's role in the scandal at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company.

The opposition has zeroed in on allegations that the former government allowed a state-owned bank -- the Caisse des depots et consignations (CDC) -- to purchase EADS shares sold by the Lagardere group in April 2006.

The purchase happened shortly before EADS subsidiary Airbus announced delays in its flagship A380 aircraft in June 2006 which led to a sharp fall in the EADS share price.

CDC officials are due to appear before parliament this week to answer questions about the issue. Chief executive Arnaud Lagardere is a close friend of Sarkozy.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has separately ordered an internal probe into the ministry's role in the alleged scandal.

Le Monde newspaper at the weekend quoted minutes from a supervisory board meeting of the CDC on July 12, 2006 that appeared to show that former finance minister Thierry Breton knew about the transaction with Lagardere and gave it the green light.

The report contradicted testimony that Breton gave to a Senate committee hearing last week during which he asserted that the "state was beyond reproach" and that he was not notified of the deal with Lagardere.

"We demand the fullest transparency and a timetable of the information that was provided to the various ministers" between November 2005 and April 2006, when the illegal trading allegedly took place, Socialist Party spokesman Bruno Le Roux said.

The parliamentary inquiry should determine "whether the state knew and if it did, why did it not stop the sale of Lagardere shares and warn the Caisse de depots of the bad transaction that it was about to make," said Le Roux.

Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders, among those allegedly accused of insider trading in a report by the French stock market authority AMF, said in a separate interview he felt he had been "treated like a criminal and stigmatised" by the allegations.

Enders sold 50,000 stock options in EADS for a pre-tax profit of more than 700,000 euros (990,000 dollars) in November 2005, at around the time that problems were appearing with the A380 superjumbo jet, the German news weekly Focus reported.

Enders, who was co-chief executive of EADS at the time, told Focus the options were an integral part of his remuneration and "not a speculative object."

The insider trading scandal at EADS erupted as Airbus was set to deliver to Singapore Airlines its first superjumbo A380 on October 15 during a ceremony seen as turning the page on the plane maker's woes.


Subject: French news

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