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Rogue trader Kerviel asks for acquittal as appeal trial ends
The lawyers of former Société Générale trader Jerôme Kerviel have asked the court to acquit their client after portraying the 35-year-old Frenchman as the victim of a conspiracy aimed at covering up the bank's massive losses.
REUTERS - Former Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel made a last-ditch plea to clear his name before a Paris court on Thursday, capping his month-long appeal of a three-year jail sentence for his role in France’s biggest rogue-trading scandal.
Addressing the crowded, hot courtroom after his lawyer’s closing arguments, Kerviel said his name had been dragged through the mud from the day SocGen revealed in 2008 it had lost 4.9 billion euros ($6.09 billion) unwinding his huge, risky bets.
"I’ve lost four years of my life," the 35-year-old former trader SAID in hushed tones. Dressed in a pink shirt and navy suit, he looked physically weak and had to leave the courtroom several times on account of the heat during Thursday’s hearing.
Kerviel has never denied masking the huge 50-billion-euro positions that tore a hole through SocGen’s balance sheet and reputation at the dawn of the financial crisis. However, he has always insisted his superiors knew what he was doing and reiterated on Thursday he had "never lied" to the court.
"I was part of a system gone mad," he told the presiding judge, and offered his apologies to SocGen’s employees.
SocGen denies any part in the trades and allegations of a cover-up or conspiracy, which have been a regular feature of arguments made by Kerviel’s theatrical lawyer David Koubbi.
Sentencing for the appeal has been set for Oct. 24, said Dominique Filippini, presiding judge in the case.
Kerviel’s defence team has asked for acquittal. The prosecution has called for Kerviel to serve five years in jail.
"Conspiracy" of elites
The day otherwise belonged to Kerviel’s lawyer Koubbi, who was sporting a black eye after a reported punch-up with a motorist. During a four-hour closing argument, he portrayed Kerviel as a victim not just of financial-market "speculation" but of a powerful "conspiracy" of French elites.
After inviting into the courtroom former client Tristane Banon, a writer who accused ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape before prosecutors dropped their inquiry for lack of evidence, Koubbi said he was up against a "network of rats".
"Like with Tristane Banon...you find yourself up against a network...made up of rats looking at their own bit of pavement," Koubbi said. "Oh yes, there is a conspiracy."
The courtroom erupted into applause after Koubbi finished his argument, leading Judge Filippini to yell: "You do not clap in court!...This is not a show!"
The Kerviel court case has unfolded against a backdrop of political anxiety over the riskiness of investment banks and whether regulations need to be stricter.
At stake for SocGen in the appeal is whether Kerviel will once again be found solely responsible for the losses, which would be the deciding factor in whether the bank has to reimburse 1.7 billion euros in tax write-offs relating to the losses.
The other shadow looming over the bank is political. With France’s new Socialist government threatening to separate banks’ risky activities from their retail operations, French banks have been at pains to insist they do not make reckless, risky trades. ($1 = 0.8047 euros)