Rogue trader Kerviel ‘guest of honour’ at French communist festival
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Convicted ex-trader Jérôme Kerviel on Saturday received a hero’s welcome when he arrived at France’s “Fête de l’Humanité” festival with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, invited as the guest of honour of ex-leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Upon his arrival at the Communist Party-organised event in the northern Parisian suburb of La Courneuve, Kerviel was greeted and hugged by Mélenchon, the former co-chairman of the Left Party, and a horde of other supporters.
Mélenchon “is more than just a politician, he’s a man who held my hand when I was going through the roughest of times,” the former Société Générale trader told French broadcaster BFMTV.
“It’s people like these who brought me back to life,” he said, adding “we are united in the battle for more (market) regulation”.
Kerviel, 37, sent shockwaves through the world’s financial markets in 2008 when he brought French bank Société Générale - one of Europe’s biggest financial institutions - to its knees by losing almost €5 billion after placing wildly risky bets on derivatives.
A ‘scapegoat’ of the financial system
While Kerviel has never denied masking the trades he made, he maintains he was made a scapegoat by his employer, saying his Société Générale bosses were fully aware of his risky trades, and tacitly approved his actions.
As the case rolled out in court, he won wide support from prominent French left-wingers, and in particular from Mélenchon, who argue that Kerviel was unfairly blamed for the wider failings of the financial system.
Société Générale has repeatedly denied it had any knowledge of Kerviel’s risky market bets.
In 2010, Kerviel was convicted of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data in relation to the unauthorised trades. The court initially sentenced him to five years in prison, of which two were suspended, as well as a €4.9 billion fine which was later struck down. He was imprisoned in May this year.
‘The fight for truth continues’
But on Monday – just 150 days into his prison term - Kerviel left prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence with an electronic bracelet and an evening curfew.
Upon his release, Mélenchon said “this affair underscores that citizens and taxpayers are the other victims of the financial oligarchy. The fight for truth and justice continues.”
The “Fête de l’Humanité” is held annually and is a vibrant mix of left-wing politics rolled into a hugely popular music festival, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.
The three-day event began on Friday and has been held every year since it was inaugurated in 1930, with the brief exception of the 1940-1944 Nazi occupation of Paris.
The festival is considered a meeting place for French and international left-wing movements to engage in intense political debates over food, wine and music.
Aside from Kerviel, other star guests appearing at this year’s event include British pop group Massive Attack and German rock band Scorpions.