A French rogue trader convicted for his role in the near collapse of Societe Generale bank has been detained after spending two months on a protest walk.
Jerome Kerviel journeyed from Rome to the Italian border town of Ventimiglia to demonstrate against “the tyranny of the markets”, portraying himself as a simple soul caught up in an orgy of greed.
He said his protest march was inspired by the Pope, who he met at the Vatican in March.
The 37-year-old made the journey while awaiting the outcome of a legal appeal against a three-year prison term for unauthorised trading.
French authorities had earlier warned that if he did not show up to begin his sentence by midnight on Sunday “he will be considered a fugitive” and a Europe-wide warrant would be issued for his arrest.
Kerviel denies accusations he absconded.
“I have never been a fugitive; I have always taken responsibility for my actions,” he said after leaving his hotel inVentimigliadressed in hiking clothing and a backpack.
“I am walking and I am going back to France.”
As he approached the French-Italian border accompanied by supporters and journalists he said: “I will present myself to the first police officer I see.
“I have not lost, I’ve spent a beautiful day with people close to me, I’m happy, I’m free. I’ll turn myself in to the police and the authorities.”
Kerviel had spent the last two nights in Ventimiglia, refusing to return to France to begin his sentence until President Francois Hollande intervened in his case.
But as the midnight deadline approached he continued on towards the Riveria border town of Menton, where he was apprehended by police and driven away.
After an overnight stay in a police station there, he was transferred to a prison in the nearby city of Nice on Monday morning.
Kerviel told reporters he was not seeking a pardon but wanted to reveal “the serious failings” that led to his conviction and to ask for immunity for potential witnesses who could testify in his favour.
The former junior trader was sentenced in 2008 for bringing his employer Societe Generale to the verge of bankruptcy following a series of risky trades which involved up to 50 billion euros(40.7bn) of the bank’s money.
Kerviel insisted his bosses were just as much to blame for the scandal and that he was just “an ordinary person”.
“I am not crazy,” he told officials investigating the trades, adding: “I didn’t earn millions (in salary) and I didn’t drive a Porsche.”
Kerviel has become something of a cause celebre in France. He has won support from prominent left-wingers and leading figures in the Catholic Church who believe he has been unfairly made a scapegoat for the shortcomings of a corrupt financial world.
But finance minister Michel Sapin described Kerviel as a criminal.
“The crook is caught, the crook is convicted, the crook should of course serve his sentence,” Mr Sapin said on LCI television.
19 May 2014 | 1:34 pm – Source: orange.co.uk