PARIS: A French court will decide on Thursday whether Jerome Kerviel, the “rogue trader” who lost one of Europe’s biggest banks nearly five billion euros with wildly risky bets, can be freed from jail.
The Paris appeals court will rule on whether Kerviel, 37, can be released from a prison just south of the capital and placed under supervision with an electronic bracelet.
The ex-trader brought French bank Societe Generale to its knees in 2008 with enormous trades on derivatives—gambling on the direction of the market—at one point staking 50 billion euros ($66 billion) of the bank’s money. He was convicted in 2010 of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data in relation to the unauthorized trades and was handed a three-year jail term and a fine of 4.9 billion euros—the same amount he lost the bank.
He was imprisoned in May after his conviction and jail sentence were upheld, although an appeals court overturned the order to pay back the bank.
Under French law, which also takes into account the period he spent in provisional custody, he has served enough time to apply for conditional release with the proviso he wears the electronic tagging bracelet at all times.
He would have to be at home between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. every weekday night, under the usual terms of the tagging procedure. Police receive an alarm if these terms are breached or if there is an attempt to break the bracelet.
His lawyer, David Koubbi, has said there are around a dozen potential employers lining up to get Kerviel on their books.
‘I was a jerk’
Kerviel became something of a cause celebre in France, winning support from prominent left-wingers and leading figures in the Roman Catholic Church, who believe he has been unfairly scapegoated for the wider failings of the banking system.
The former trader said earlier this year he now felt “ashamed to have been part of this system.”
“I was a jerk at the time and I am going to spend the rest of my life testifying to that,” said Kerviel.
He spent two months tramping through Tuscany on a “protest march” against “the tyranny of the markets” and even briefly met Pope Francis.
He never denied making huge gambles. “My daily existence was about making money for the bank. That was my only objective, at any price, regardless of all moral or ethical considerations,” he said.
Despite dealing in such vast sums of money, he was on a relatively modest 50,000-euro basic salary when the scandal erupted in January 2008.
He lived in an unremarkable, small suburban flat and took the train to Brittany in the holidays to visit his widowed mother.
“I am an ordinary person. I’m not crazy,” he said during investigations into the scandal.
“I didn’t earn millions [in salary]and I didn’t drive a Porsche.”