French trader's lawyers ask court for acquittal

By the Associated Press | June 28, 2012 | 3:21 PM EDT

PARIS (AP) — Lawyers for French trader Jerome Kerviel, who is appealing his conviction for covering up billions of dollars in losses, asked a court Thursday to acquit their client and not be duped by the top bank that employed him.

Kerviel, 35, visibly tired on the last day of his re-trial, told the court he "has always been sincere" but asked employees of Societe Generale to "pardon" him.

Kerviel was convicted in 2010 of covering up billions in losses as a trader in 2008 at Societe Generale. He claims the bank was aware of his exorbitant bets and that he was victim of a financial system that runs on greed and profits. The prosecution claims he is lying.

In final arguments, defense attorney Julien Dami Le Coz asked, "Where are the real liars in this courtroom?"

The court must "speak the law" he said, and that "can lead only to one outcome, the acquittal of Jerome Kerviel."

The prosecution has asked the court to declare him guilty once again and sentence him to five years in prison with no chance of early release. That's harsher than the five-year term with three years suspended handed down in the initial conviction.

Kerviel, who is unemployed, was also told to pay €4.9 billion in damages, the loss — about $7 billion at the time — the bank said it took to unwind the deals. Societe Generale is still seeking the damages, but admits he could never reimburse that sum.

Prosecutor Dominique Gaillardot argued Wednesday that Kerviel was a "manipulator" who took advantage of faults in the system to hide his risky actions.

Kerviel "was not a little trader in the face of a financial system because he fully took part in it," Gaillardot said. "He knows the advantages but he also knows the faults and the weaknesses."

The prosecutor left open the possibility of an "eventual evolution" in the damages, although it is up to the court to decide.

In the initial trial, Kerviel was found guilty on charges of forgery, breach of trust and unauthorized computer use for covering up bets worth nearly €50 billion between late 2007 and early 2008 — and that he claims were tolerated by France's second-largest bank as long as they made money.

Kerviel, who never profited financially from his actions, told the court he was "hurt for being treated like a fraudster."

Last week, the man who served at the time as chief of Societe Generale, Daniel Bouton told the court he could not understand why Kerviel acted as he did.

Kerviel appears to be "sincere" except "he doesn't have all the information and it's like he's missing a leg," Bouton said.

The appeals trial began June 4. A verdict is expected Oct. 24.