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France

French Societe Generale rogue trader Kerviel hesitates on his way to jail

Convicted rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, walking back to France to begin his jail term, has stopped on the Italian border. He wants immunity for witnesses who may appear in court on his behalf.

Convicted trader Jerome Kerviel, facing a three-year prison term on his return to France, announced Saturday that he would be staying in Italy for the time being. French authorities had given him until Sunday to present himself at Menton police station to begin his sentence.

The 37-year-old was judged to be solely responsible six years ago for having run up 50 billion euros (68 billion dollars) in unauthorized trades which led to an eventual 4.9 billion euros in trading losses at his former bank Societe Generale. The losses brought the French bank to the brink of bankruptcy.

In court Kerviel admitted exceeding trading limits, faking documents, and entering false data into computers but said his bosses must have known what he was doing.

Kerviel said on Saturday he would not cross into France until he had received a response to his request for French President Francois Hollande to grant immunity to potential witnesses who could testify in his favor in connection with the bank's near collapse.

"I will wait for Francois Hollande's response on the Italian side," Kerviel said just meters from the French-Italian border near the Riviera town of Menton. "If they want to come and get me, let them come."

Walk of shame

An appeal ruling in March upheld his jail term but scrapped an order for Kerviel to return the money he was judged to have lost. The court said that there would be a civil case to decide on a new figure.

Last January as he was waiting for the results of his appeals, he was helped by a prominent French bishop, Monsignor Jean-Michel di Falco Léandri and went to Rome for a public audience with Pope Francis.

Inspired by the encounter, and the Pope's attack last year on capitalism's "idolatry of money," Kerviel decided to walk the 1,400 kilometers home, promoting the Pope's message of a flawed financial system. It was this walk which brought him to the border on the French Riviera on Saturday.

jm/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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