French rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel freed

Former trader who lost Sociéte Générale £4.9bn released by appeal court after serving 110 days of five-year prison sentence

In the end it worked out at just one day in prison for every €50m (£40m) lost by the French rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel, who was freed by an appeal court on Thursday.

Kerviel was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to five years in jail – two suspended – and ordered to repay almost €5bn he had lost the French bank Sociéte Générale in unauthorised deals .

After numerous appeals and legal wrangling, he was released by the Paris appeal court on Thursday after 110 days in prison. The judge rejected a demand by French prosecutors that Kerviel remain in jail but ordered him to wear an electronic tag.

The former trader, who carried out one of the biggest trading frauds in history, had been told in March that he would not have to repay the bank.

The 37-year-old had managed to stay the 2010 sentence through the lengthy appeal process but was jailed in May after returning from Italy where he met Pope Francis. Kerviel was arrested after crossing the border into France while on a much-publicised two-month pilgrimage from Rome to Paris to draw attention to the "tyranny" of financial markets.

At the beginning of August, he was given a conditional release from prison, but was denied his freedom after a successful appeal against the decision by the prosecutor's office. That appeal was overturned on Thursday.

Kerviel has portrayed himself as a victim of a financial system that ignored his deals while they made money, but hung him out to dry when he accumulated losses.

At one point, he ran up about €38bn in unauthorised trades, which when discovered had to be carefully unwound. Sociéte Générale says the process cost it €4.9bn, the biggest banking loss of its kind in history. The bank almost collapsed as a result of the losses discovered in 2008.

In May 2010, Kerviel, who has never denied making unauthorised trades, wrote a book L'engrenage: mémoires d'un trader (Downward Spiral: Memoirs of a Trader) alleging his superiors knew of his trading activities. He is not believed to have profited personally.

His case has become something of a cause célèbre in France where he is seen by many, including leading figures in the Roman Catholic church, as a scapegoat for the shortcomings of the global banking system and capitalism.

But the French finance minister, Michel Sapin, earlier went on television to describe Kerviel as a "crook" who should serve his sentence.


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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