- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

PARIS France's ambitions to head the European Central Bank received a setback yesterday when the Paris prosecutor's office announced it would not appeal an order for the top candidate French banking guru Jean-Claude Trichet to stand trial next year.
Currently governor of the Bank of France, Mr. Trichet, 59, has been under investigation for two years for his role in a decade-old scandal involving France's Credit Lyonnais bank.
On Tuesday, Paris Judge Philip Courroye ordered Mr. Trichet and five other former Credit Lyonnais and government officials to stand trial on charges of accounting fraud by the bank to cover up a $1.8 million loss in 1992.
Mr. Trichet was head of the French treasury at the time, and responsible for oversight of state-owned banks which then included Credit Lyonnais.
In particular, critics accuse Mr. Trichet of minimizing the bank's losses, which temporarily imperiled its future.
But Mr. Trichet has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the scandal.
"I don't think one can speak of insincerity in the accounts of 1991 and 1992," Mr. Trichet told a French parliamentary commission investigating the matter in 1994.
Mr. Trichet is a leading contender to take over the presidency of the European Central Bank from Wim Duisenberg in a year.
Mr. Trichet's attorney, Yves Bodelet, told reporters Tuesday his client was determined to go to court, and expressed confidence he would be cleared.
But it is not clear whether the trial will take place before Mr. Duisenberg steps down as central bank head, expected in July 2003. He said Tuesday that he may delay his departure to facilitate his succession.
The French press reported that President Jacques Chirac, who negotiated a 1998 backroom deal for Mr. Trichet to replace Mr. Duisenberg, remained behind his candidate.
But yesterday, Justice Minister Dominique Perben told reporters the government would not interfere with the judge's decision.


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