88 in Paris rag trade jailed for £50m fraud

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The Independent Online

A total of 88 businessmen in the Paris rag trade were jailed for terms ranging from 12 months to seven years for a £50m conspiracy to defraud banks and insurance companies. A further 36 defendants in the largest and most complex fraud trial in French history were cleared.

A total of 88 businessmen in the Paris rag trade were jailed for terms ranging from 12 months to seven years for a £50m conspiracy to defraud banks and insurance companies. A further 36 defendants in the largest and most complex fraud trial in French history were cleared.

The " Sentier" trial – named after the wholesale textile district in the city centre where most of the men operated – turned on a conspiracy to cheat financial institutions by "insuring" non-existent business deals.

Investigations of the wider ramifications of the fraud have caused ill-feeling between France and Israel and have led to formal legal action against the heads of French banks, including Barclays France, for alleged "money-laundering".

Many of the defendants in the trial were Jewish and several have fled France, reportedly for Israel. They include Haim Weizman, the alleged leader of the conspiracy who was sentenced in his absence to seven years in prison. International arrest warrants were issued for Mr Weizman and 12 other defendants.

Senior French bankers being investigated are not accused of taking part in the fraud but of failing to impose strict enough bank discipline.

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