Prosecutor calls for 5-year Kerviel sentence

Calling Jerome Kerviel a liar and a cheat, the Paris prosecutor demanded on Thursday a five-year prison sentence for the rogue trader whose high-profile trial is nearing its end.

Prosecutor Jean-Michel Aldebert termed Kerviel a "manipulator" and a "cheater" for having built up unauthorized bets worth 50 billion euros ($67 billion) that nearly brought French bank Societe Generale to its knees.

Aldebert told the court Kerviel should spend at least four years behind bars while the fifth year could be suspended.

SocGen blames Kerviel's massive trading positions for 4.9 billion euros in trading losses in 2008. The bank has demanded he repay the money and be punished for his actions.

"These past three weeks have shed light on the peculiar relationship Jerome Kerviel had with the truth," said SocGen's lawyer, Jean Veil.

The trial, which has run for 12 days, is due to end on Friday. Kerviel faces a maximum five years in prison and a 375,000 euro fine if convicted of forgery, computer abuse and breach of trust.

Kerviel's cigar-smoking lawyer, Olivier Metzner, known for his theatrical style, said outside the courtroom he would fight the prosecutor's call.

Kerviel, 33, silently took notes as the prosecutor spoke. He has insisted his superiors knew what he was doing and tolerated his breaches of the bank's risk control system.

Kerviel's defense team has presented the ex-trader as a "pawn for profit," dumped only when his unauthorized gains turned to losses.

SocGen has argued Kerviel acted alone by tricking fellow traders, superiors and control supervisors.

Betrayed Trust

Aldebert told the courtroom in the Palais de Justice that Kerviel's defense team had "methodically woven a tapestry...casting SocGen not as a victim but as a culprit."

But he said it made no sense to imagine a bank would let a trader take positions that could push it into bankruptcy. He added that Kerviel hid his positions by creating fake covering trades, implying the trader knew they were forbidden.

"Jerome Kerviel truly wanted to hide his actions ... (A discovery) would have immediately led to the bank firing him," said Aldebert.

He presented Kerviel as an "unscrupulous" trader who tried every trick in the book to hide his bets from his superiors.

But Aldebert acknowledged he had failed to come up with a discernible motive for Kerviel, who did not pocket directly any gains from his trading and claimed to be motivated by the desire to win money for SocGen.

"Why did you continue your insane race?" Aldebert asked. "To win money for the bank? Certainly not. You alone, Jerome Kerviel, have the answer."

[Source: By Lionel Laurent and Matthieu Protard, Reuters, Paris, 24Jun10]

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