Former trader Jerome Kerviel has been ordered to spend three years in prison and pay back 4.9 billion euros (£3.9 billion) in damages for one of the biggest trading frauds in history.
After a four-week trial in June, the Paris appeals court ruled this afternoon that Mr Kerviel was a fraudster rather than the victim of a greedy system as he had claimed all along.
“Jerome Kerviel was the sole creator, inventor and user of a fraudulent system that caused these damages to Societe Generale,” the written ruling concluded.
It upheld an October 2010 sentence to three years in prison with another two suspended, and ordered him to reimburse the bank for its loss.
The charges were for breach of trust, forgery and entering false data into computers during the covert stock market deals. Mr Kerviel, who has spent a total of 39 days in jail, had remained free pending the result of his appeal.
Societe Generale’s top lawyer Jean Veil said the bank remained “realistic” about getting its money back, but welcomed the outcome.
“The memory of what Mr Kerviel made the bank, its shareholders, its staff and the entire profession go through will long remain,” he said.
Speaking after the verdict, his lawyer, David Koubbi said: “We had given ourselves the goal of defending Mr Kerviel against an absolutely lamentable injustice. I can tell you that we’ve failed.”
Mr Kerviel said that he would launch another appeal to review today’s ruling.
“I’m completely devastated. I do not understand this judgement and I have no hesitation taking it to the final court of appeal,” he told RTL radio after the conviction was upheld.
A review could take a year, legal experts predict. He would likely remain free during that time.
The ex-trader did not profit personally from his unauthorised €50bn of uncovered bets on futures markets.
He had always claimed the bank turned a blind eye to his astronomically risky bets in late 2007 and early 2008 as long as they made money and used the losses to mask the threat it faced from the US subprime mortgage market.
The appeals ruling marked the failure of the high-risk strategy adopted by Mr Kerviel’s lawyer David Koubbi, a household name since representing French writer Tristane Banon in her unsuccessful attempted rape case against the disgraced ex-IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Denouncing the original conviction as a “farce”, Mr Koubbi had launched two countersuits against the bank: one accused it of doctoring secret recordings so as not to incriminate the trader’s superiors; the other said the bank had already recouped a third of the sum Mr Kerviel was ordered to repay in the form of a tax write-off.
The bank countersued for malicious falsehood.
His aggressive treatment of witnesses led to the judge Mireille Filippini at one stage threatening to refer him to the bar association.
Branding Mr Kerviel a “perverse manipulator”, prosecutor Dominique Gaillardot had urged for a maximum five-year term as “an example and a deterrent” to others.