Credit Lyonnais boss punished for losses

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The Independent Online
The French government yesterday dismissed Jean-Yves Haberer as head of a small state-owned bank as clear punishment for his management of the nationalised Credit Lyonnais from 1988 until last year.

The cabinet announced that Mr Haberer, a former director of the treasury in the 1970s, had been sacked as chairman of Credit National. He was moved there in the autumn from Credit Lyonnais, a serious demotion.

Mr Haberer's dismissal from the smaller bank was an unusually severe punishment for a senior civil servant. Normally, high officials are guaranteed a job even if they are responsible for spectacular failures.

Among the mistakes of which Credit Lyonnais stands accused are Fr1.1bn ( pounds 132m) in loans to the late Robert Maxwell; Fr2bn to Olympia and York, the Canadian developer of the London Docklands, which collapsed in 1992; Fr550m to La Cinq, France's fifth television channel which went bankrupt two years ago and Fr500m to Bernard Tapie, the businessman and politician.

Two weeks ago, the bank, now headed by Jean Peyrelevade, negotiated a reimbursement deal with Mr Tapie that will probably oblige him to sell some of his businesses.

The biggest problem, however, was the Fr15bn that Credit Lyonnais's Dutch subsidiary entrusted to Giancarlo Parretti to buy Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer. The Italian businessman was unable to close the deal. His associate, Florio Fiorini, was jailed in Switzerland for bankruptcy and Swiss authorities have summoned Mr Haberer and another Credit Lyonnais official for questioning.

Earlier this week, Mr Haberer asked for a commission of inquiry to establish his own level of responsibility in the bank's affairs. He said that many of its problems stemmed from agreements dating back to before his chairmanship. Edmond Alphandery, the Finance Minister, yesterday agreed to an inquiry.

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