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French report French report
by Euro Reporter
2010-10-06 08:56:29
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Court finds 'rogue trader' Kerviel guilty in fraud trial

French “rogue trader" Jérôme Kerviel, who shocked the finance world by single-handedly losing 4.9 billion Euros at French bank Société Générale, was found guilty on all three charges brought against him by state prosecutors Tuesday. The court found Kerviel guilty of forgery, breach of trust and entering fraudulent data into computers, and sentenced him to five years in prison, including two suspended. It also ordered him to pay his former employer 4.9 billion Euros in damages.

Kerviel, who had appeared relaxed until the verdict came through, was visibly stunned by the judge’s ruling. Olivier Metzner, Kerviel's lawyer, tried to comfort his devastated client. Kerviel had maintained that his Société Générale bosses were completely aware of his risky trading, and tacitly approved his actions.

But presiding judge Dominique Pauthe told the court that the evidence provided by the defence during the trial in June "does not allow us to deduce that Société Générale was aware of Jérôme Kerviel's fraudulent activities". Immediately after the verdict, Metzner told reporters the court’s decision was “totally unreasonable” and that Kerviel was “revolted.” Kerviel himself refused to leave the courtroom to face reporters, said FRANCE 24’s Julien Peyron at the court.  Metzner announced his client would file an appeal.


French Senate debates raising retirement age

A new clash over the government bid to rise the retirement age in France to 62 is in the works, with a top public transport union announcing on Tuesday plans for an open-ended strike as debate on the measure opened in the Senate. Some 2,000 protesters faced off riot police outside the Senate building in the Luxembourg Gardens in a display of the bitterness the bill is provoking by chiseling away at cherished gains, widely seen as rights. Labor Minister Eric Woerth, addressing the upper house of parliament, said the government won't budge on its plan to rise the retirement age from 60 to 62 ''because this measure is essential to balancing the system.'' Three days after the third nationwide demonstration in a month to protest the bill, Woerth said that he ''hears,'' ''respects'' and ''takes into account'' the concerns of the French. But, he added, ''there is no miracle solution'' to filling empty state coffers.

The reform's aim is make the money-draining pension system break even by 2018. Though the minimum retirement age would be 62, people would have to wait until age 67 if they want full pension benefits, up from age 65 today. The UNSA-Transport union that represents most Metro drivers and many bus drivers and suburban Paris trains said it plans to file its notice of an unlimited strike starting Oct. 12 when a new round of demonstrations is planned. At least three other unions have announced similar strike plans.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the bill his top priority for the rest of his term, which ends in 2012. France is among many indebted European countries trying to scale back spending, and says its money-losing pension system will collapse without reform. Unions see retirement at 60 as a firmly entrenched right, and have hobbled transport with two nationwide strikes in a month over the measure and rallied 1 million people to the streets in recent protests.


Document 'proves' Vichy France leader was an anti-Semite

A recently discovered Vichy-era document has reignited one of the most divisive questions in post-war France: how far did the Vichy government go in aiding Nazi Germany in its endeavour to exterminate Europe’s Jews? Serge Klarsfeld, a leading Holocaust historian and Nazi hunter, says a newly discovered document is definitive evidence that French wartime leader Philippe Petain was an anti-Semite who actively supported the holocaust.

Vichy France is the term used to describe the government of France from July 1940 to August 1944, which was headed by Marshal Philippe Petain and generally encompassed the south, which maintained some legal authority under German occupation during World War Two. The document, anonymously donated to the Paris Holocaust Memorial, is a copy of a draft bill from 1940 intended to change the official status of Jews in France. The typewritten document has handwritten additions that considerably toughen the law, expanding proposed bans on public jobs and posts for Jews. According to Klarsfeld, these notes were penned by Petain himself.

The draft bill – with Petain’s alleged changes - was adopted on Oct. 4, 1940, exactly seventy years ago, and marked a tragic turning point for Jews living France.  Over 76,000 Jews were deported from France to Nazi concentration camps between 1940 and 1943. Fewer than 3,000 returned alive. France has long struggled to come to terms with its role in the Holocaust, and the image of Petain as a reluctant herald of Nazi orders has persisted despite very vocal Petain detractors like Klarsfeld.

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