Bankers face questioning over Swiss collapse

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The Independent Online
GENEVA (Reuter) - A Swiss judge plans to investigate the former Credit Lyonnais chairman Jean-Yves Haberer and the current managing director Francois Gille in connection with the bankruptcy last year of Sasea, a Swiss financial group.

Credit Lyonnais, the French state-owned bank, is the biggest creditor of Sasea, which collapsed in 1992 with debts of Sfr5.1bn ( pounds 2.34bn).

Credit Lyonnais said it was 'stupefied' by the investigating judge's decision to summon Mr Haberer and Mr Gille to answer questions.

Geneva magistrates have been investigating allegations of fraudulent bankruptcy at Sasea and said last year they were checking to see if Credit Lyonnais had any operational control of the firm at the time.

The investigations of Sasea management, directors and auditors are focusing on suspicions of fraudulent bankruptcy, disloyal management, documentary fraud, giving false information and false obtainment of protection from creditors.

At a creditors' hearing the bank's Dutch unit, Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland, submitted claims of Sfr927m.

The Dutch unit's relationship with Sasea dates from the financing it provided for the purchase of MGM Pathe Communications, the US film studio, by the Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti - a venture in which Sasea took a large stake.

Sasea was then headed by Florio Fiorini, an associate of Mr Parretti and now himself in investigative custody in Geneva on suspicion of fraud.

Credit Lyonnais Nederland has since bought the studio in a foreclosure auction.