The alleged rogue trader, Jérôme Kerviel, sought far and wide by the world's media, appeared briefly in public today for the first time since he was accused of losing nearly €5bn (£3.7bn) two weeks ago.
Looking relaxed and calm, M. Kerviel, 31, posed for pictures and gave a brief interview to the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, at his lawyer's office in Paris. He then walked alone into the streets of the city, despite a claim by the French government that he was under police protection.
During the interview, M. Kerviel, wearing jeans and a checked shirt, admitted "partial responsibility" for the alleged losses of €4.8bn but said he would not allow himself to be made the sole "scapegoat" by his bank, Société Générale.
"I had no personal ambitions in this affair," he told AFP in a 15-minute interview. "My aim was to make money for the bank. You lose track of the amounts involved when you are engaged in this kind of work," said M. Kerviel, who is accused of staking €50bn of the bank's money on an upward movement of European stock markets. "You lose track of reality. You let yourself get carried away."
"I have been identified by Société Générale as [the only guilty party]. I accept my share of the responsibility but I am not going to be the scapegoat for Société Générale," he said, in the offices of his lawyer, Maître Elisabeth Meyer.
M. Kerviel was questioned by investigators for a second time on Monday. During his first interrogation, he accused the bank of being aware that large, unauthorised trades were being made on its trading floor. He said that Société Générale had turned a "blind eye" so long as money was being made. The former trader has been placed under formal investigation for breach of trust, forgery and computer hacking. M. Kerviel has also been the subject of a frantic media manhunt since he was released from custody nine days ago. He told AFP that he was living with friends in the Paris area and spent the weekend in the country.
"I am neither suicidal nor depressive," he said with a smile, dismissing previous media reports that he was mentally "fragile".
The former trader said that he would discuss the allegations against him in detail with the investigating judges – and only the judges. "There are many things to say," M. Kerviel added. "Much of what has appeared in the press is distorted."
An appeal by the state prosecution service against his release from custody is scheduled to be heard in Paris on Friday. "I will be there on Friday," M. Kerviel said. "I have complete confidence in my lawyer."
Jérôme Kerviel is accused of making the largest losses by a single unauthorised trader in financial history. Société Générale says that in the course of 2007 he made unauthorised trades worth €30bn on European stock market futures, "winning" €1.4bn by the end of the year.
Having disguised the size of his exposure, and earnings, with fictitious trades, he went on last month to make even bigger trades. According to the bank, he deliberately set out to lose money in 2008 to bring down the suspicious size of his 2007 earnings. The stock market plunge two weeks ago meant that he lost the bank a net €4.8bn.Reuse content