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Prison on horizon for French rogue trader

Rogue trader Jerome Kerviel could finally be behind bars this weekend after being ordered to present himself at a police station as soon as he returns to France.

PARIS: Rogue trader Jerome Kerviel could finally be behind bars this weekend after being ordered to present himself at a police station as soon as he returns to France.

Kerviel, whose high-risk trading cost his former employer Societe Generale nearly five billion euros, is currently on a walk from Rome to Paris which is intended to highlight what he regards as the unfair treatment he has received from the courts.

Kerviel embarked on the walk after meeting briefly with Pope Francis on February 19 and he was still in Italy a month later when France's top appeals court upheld his 2010 conviction for breach of trust, forgery and entering false data.

The charges relate to unauthorised deals that brought one of the biggest banks in Europe to the brink of bankruptcy.

The ruling left Kerviel, who served 41 days in pre-trial detention in 2008, liable to be imprisoned at any time.

Under an order issued by the prosecutor's office in Paris, Kerviel must present himself by Sunday at the latest at a police station in the Riviera border town of Menton. If he fails to do so, police will be ordered to detain him.

According to his lawyer, the former trader will cross the border on Saturday afternoon and will be welcomed back to France by the Bishop of Gap and Embrun, Jean-Michel di Falco, the chair of his support committee.

Since meeting the pope, Kerviel has secured the support of a number of church figures who share his conviction that he has been made a scapegoat for the scandal while Societe Generale has escaped any blame.

Di Falco has this week written to President Francois Hollande asking him to intervene in the case to prevent Kerviel's incarceration.

Another priest, Patric Gourrier, has vowed to complete the 1,400-km (870-mile) Rome-Paris walk if Kerviel is imprisoned.

Although the March court ruling upheld Kerviel's sentence -- a five-year prison term with two suspended -- it cancelled an order for the former trader to pay back the money he lost and ordered a review of the damages award.

Kerviel's lawyers argue that this decision means that the bank will effectively be put on trial over the the failure of its supervisory system. His supporters say it is unfair for him to go to prison while that issue has not been resolved by the courts.

At the time of the ruling, Kerviel hailed it as "the end of impunity" for banks and bankers and expressed surprise that French authorities "prefer to lock me up in prison rather that investigate the destruction of evidence."

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