Top French banker slams Cantona withdrawal protest

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The head of France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, said Thursday a call by Eric Cantona for citizens to collapse "criminal" banks by simultaneously withdrawing funds was misplaced and would sow insecurity.

Baudoin Prot told journalists that he respected "the great sportsman and his concern for matters of poverty," but in terms of banking the call for mass withdrawals on December 7 was "typically misplaced."

"The recommendation to withdraw deposits will sow insecurity" while being "completely against that which can ensure the economy's functioning," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have said they will take up the call made by former Manchester United star Cantona in a video interview to bring down the "corrupt, criminal" banking system next Tuesday.

"The three million people in the street, they go to the bank, withdraw their money, and the banks collapse... That's a real threat, there's a real revolution," he said in the video that has gone viral on the web.

Prot stressed that "French banks in no way contributed to the origins of the crisis," and state bank bailouts did not "cost the taxpayer anything."

Government spokesman and Budget Minister Francois Baroin said Cantona's call "would be comic if it weren't tragic," and that if Cantona was not chosen for the French World Cup winning team in 1998 "there must have been reasons."

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde on Wednesday told French citizens not to heed Cantona's call, saying he was a great footballer but that not all of his suggestions should be followed.

© 2010 AFP

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