PARIS -- Pierre Berge said Tuesday he doesn't "give a damn" about his indictment by a French magistrate on criminal charges of insider trading.
Investigating magistrate David Peyron indicted Berge, president of Yves Saint Laurent Couture, and Jean-Francis Bretelle, YSL financial director, on Monday night for insider trading and violation of French stock market trading laws regarding YSL Groupe in 1992. The YSL business was a publicly traded company before it was sold to Elf-Sanofi in spring 1993.
Yves Saint Laurent, who was questioned by Peyron in his investigation, was not indicted.
"I really don't give a damn about this whole tale. I haven't done anything wrong. I wasn't part of any conspiracy, and I'm not guilty of any tricks," Berge said.
Despite the indictments, it is still uncertain whether Berge and Bretelle will ever face trial.
"I'm still carrying out my investigations. It's pretty probable this thing will go to court. That could take anything from a few months to over a year," said Peyron.
"It all depends on how my continuing investigation proceeds internationally," added Peyron, who pointed out that insider trading is a criminal offense in France.
The case stems from the sale of nearly $20 million in YSL stock -- roughly 4 percent of the fashion and fragrance house -- by Saint Laurent and BergÄ in the summer of 1992 through a group of Swiss banks. The sale preceded the announcement on Sept. 21, 1992, of a 94 percent plunge in YSL's net, which sent the house's stock plunging on the Paris Bourse. The sale was also allegedly carried out without the use of an official Paris brokerage, violating stock market rules.
The sale of stock came at a time when Berge and Saint Laurent were both substantially in debt. Earlier in 1992, the pair were forced to buy out a 15 percent stake in the YSL business from the troubled Italian financier Carlo de Benedetti for just over $100 million.
The sentence for insider trading in France, varies from two months to two years in prison. The maximum fine for the offense is $1.8 million (10 million francs).Asked if he was afraid of going to prison, Berge replied: "Are you kidding? I stole from nobody. I lost money selling that stock!"
Bretelle pointed out that several banks had sent Berge and Saint Laurent letters demanding that the pair make large payments, effectively forcing them to sell their stock.
"It's extraordinary really, one big, long legal waltz," said Bretelle. "It must be irritating for Mr. Berge, but, honestly, I really couldn't care less.
"I remain confident that we'll win any court case. I was never conscious of having committed any sort of crime," he added.
In January, the Commission des Operations des Bourses, France's stock market watchdog, fined Berge $534,000 (3 million francs) in a punitive sanction for alleged insider trading in the same case.
Bretelle pointed out, however, that the Court of Appeal here subsequently reduced the fine to $178,000 (1 million francs). Berge has also appealed that ruling.
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