Ex-Fortis boss snubs Dutch court

21st May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Jean-Paul Votron, the former chief executive of dismantled bank Fortis, snubbed a Dutch court Friday, failing to turn up for a hearing to give evidence in a claim by shareholders, a court official said.

"His lawyer told the hearing that Mr Votron wanted to testify in French before a Belgian judge, in Belgium," Paul van Daalen, a spokesman for the district court in the central city of Utrecht, told AFP.

"The judge now has to decide, and has indicated he will probably do so by the end of next week, on the possibilities for continuing the hearing," he said.

Van Daalen said an appeals court had earlier in the week rejected a bid by Votron and two other former Fortis executives, Maurice Lippens and Gilbert Mittler, to be exempted from giving testimony in a 1.5-million-euro (1.88-million-dollar) claim by former Fortis shareholders.

The three men have lodged a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

Their accusers claim, through lawyer Hendrik Jan Bos, that they lost money because Votron, Lippens and Mittler had lied to the markets and said the bank was financially healthy in 2008 when it was on the brink of collapse.

Votron was due to have given testimony on this issue on Friday, former chairman Lippens on June 8 and ex-chief financial officer Mittler on June 11.

Van Daalen said Lippens and Mittler's lawyers told the court on Friday that they, too, would not come to testify.

"This will form part of the decision the judge now has to make," he said.

"In normal circumstances, a person who refuses to appear can be picked up by the police. But the court has no police officers in Belgium. That is not part of the possibilities."

Hard hit by the global financial crisis, the former Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group was dismantled in October 2008, with its Dutch banking and insurance assets nationalised by the Netherlands for 16.8 billion euros (21 billion dollars).

Its Belgian banking arm was taken over by French giant BNP Paribas.

© 2010 AFP

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