Jérôme Kerviel: 'I had to be killed so Société Générale could survive'

Rogue trader speaks out against court verdict, saying he was being made to pay for the malpractice of several people

Jérôme Kerviel, the former trader ordered to spend three years behind bars and pay €4.9bn in damages to French bank Société Générale, has spoken out against the verdict, saying he was "the only one paying" for the malpractice of many.

Speaking for the first time since a French judge found him guilty yesterday of breach of trust, computer abuse and forgery, the man whose risky market betting led to one of history's biggest trading scandals said he had been "stunned" by a ruling that cast him as the sole villain.

"I would like everyone to shoulder their responsibility and, at the moment, I am the only one paying," the 33-year-old told French radio. "I really get the feeling that they wanted to make me pay for everyone else, that the Générale had to be saved and that the soldier Kerviel had to be killed."

Kerviel was condemned by Judge Dominique Pauthe as a cool and callous criminal who exploited the lax internal checks within France's second-biggest bank to break the rules and take spectacular risks. But Kerviel today repeated his main line of defence throughout his three-week trial: that his trading practices were an open secret his bosses were happy to indulge as long as they yielded "money for the bank".

"From the start of the investigation I have admitted what I was responsible for, what I did wrong, while at the same time providing factual material proving that my colleagues and my superiors knew what I was doing," he said. He admitted that he and his lawyer, Olivier Metzner, had failed to convince the court. "We probably didn't know how to explain that and make the court realise and prove once and for all that it wasn't just me in that boat."

The Breton during his seven years at Société Générale was a reserved trader with a quiet social life and a self-confessed passion for the "intoxification" of money making. He has said he will carry on working at a small IT consultancy in the Parisian suburbs while preparing for the appeal his lawyer has announced.Kerviel is earning €2,300 a month from his new job and has reportedly asked to go half-time in order to focus on his appeal. He would never be able to repay the astronomical damages payment ordered by the court. On his full wage it would take upwards of 177,000 years.

As debate rages over the fairness or otherwise of the damages and five-year prison sentence – with two years suspended – observers are asking whether or not Société Générale will insist on demanding the money.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel said the bank could "perhaps" make a gesture. "It's a decision for Société Générale," he told French radio. "The new communications chief should perhaps suggest it to the chairman." Sources said the bank was unlikely to push for the repayment in full.

A figure on the right of French politics, Gérard Longuet, the president of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP in the upper house of parliament, said he thought the demand for €4.9bn in damages was "a little ridiculous". Given that the bank had also been found lacking, he said, it was "a little bit surprising that one lone man should take the only and exclusive blame".

Others were not so sure. In an editorial, the centre-left newspaper Le Monde pointed out that Kerviel had been handed down a sentence lighter than those for other rogue traders in other countries, and that Société Générale, while partly to blame, had already paid fines and suffered considerable damage through "l'affaire Kerviel".

"The law may not have given the verdict of which public opinion dreamed," Le Monde said. "Is this a reason to condemn it as wrong?"


Lizzy Davies in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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