France Refuses U.S. Extradition Request in Executive Life Case

October 9, 2003

France’s ministry of Justice has rejected a request from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A. to extradite four French businessmen, who have been charged with participating in Credit Lyonnais’ (CL) takeover of Executive Life.

The criminal fraud case against the French bank was apparently settled in September (it still requires court approval), when CL and the Consortium de Réalisation (CDR), a French government agency established to take over the bank’s debt mountain in 1995, agreed with federal prosecutors to pay approximately $585 million in order to settle it.

However, four individuals – Jean-Yves Haberer, who headed CL at the time of the Executive Life deal; Jean-François Hénin, former director general of Altus Finance, through whom the deal was made; François Gille, a former CL director, and Emmanuel Cueff, the general secretary of Artemis, the holding company of French billionaire François Pinault – were not part of the settlement negotiations. The AG’s office has therefore continued proceedings initiated by a grand jury indictment against them.

The request, made through Interpol by Deborah Yang, a federal prosecutor, was formally rejected by the Ministry on the grounds that it is not French policy to extradite French citizens. While the government’s action effectively protects them from prosecution as long as they remain in France, it may not be the end of the matter. The current head of CL, Jean Peyrelevade, announced last week that he was stepping down, as U.S. authorities had reportedly taken the position that he bears an individual responsibility in the case, as well as the accountability for the bank’s actions while he was its CEO.

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