BANKING - JUSTICE

French 'rogue trader' faces judges in last hearing

Alleged rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel faced probably his last hearing Thursday in a year-long investigation into the trading scandal that left French bank Société Générale with 4.9 billion euros in losses. Kerviel said he had "a lot more to say".

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AFP - French judges on Thursday questioned trader Jerome Kerviel for probably the last time as they wrap up a year-long probe into the biggest rogue trading scandal in history and prepare for trial.

Kerviel and his assistant have been charged over the staggering losses of 4.9 billion euros (7.1 billion dollars) in unauthorised derivatives trading at French bank Societe Generale.

One of France's three biggest banks, Societe Generale shocked the financial world when it unveiled mammoth losses in January last year and has since said Kerviel was a rogue who went to great lengths to conceal his dealings.

The 32-year-old junior trader has insisted his managers knew of his actions and kept silent as long as he was making good returns.

"I understand that this will be my last hearing," Kerviel told AFP. "I hope that this is not the case because I have a lot more to say."

Kerviel is accused of breach of trust, fabricating documents and illegally accessing computers. His assistant, Thomas Mougard, 24, was charged in August with "complicity to introduce false data into a computer system."

Both are free on bail pending a trial that is not expected to begin before the end of the year at the earliest.

Kerviel's lawyers argue that their client is a scapegoat and complained that judges relied too closely on documents provided by Societe Generale.

In a series of rulings made last month, French magistrates heading the pre-trial investigation turned down defence requests for an additional probe to establish whether the bank turned a blind eye to his actions.

France's banking regulator fined Societe Generale four million euros in July for "grave deficiencies" in its internal controls that allowed the situation to go undetected for so long.

The banking commission also issued a formal warning to Societe Generale for failing to prevent the losses. Five bank employees were fired and two others resigned over the affair.

The losses were incurred when the bank was forced to unwind more than 50 billion euros of unauthorised deals Kerviel is said to have made.

Described by workmates as a quiet, unassuming trader, Kerviel surrendered to police on January 26, two days after the bank revealed the losses.

Societe Generale chairman Daniel Boutin described Kerviel as a "terrorist and fraudster" who had betrayed the confidence of his managers.

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