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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 15:39 GMT
On the trail of trader Kerviel
Jerome Kerviel, the reported rogue trader
Jerome Kerviel is not on the run, his lawyers say
Who is he, where is he and what has he done with the money?

Everyone in the banking world wants answers about the elusive French rogue trader, Jerome Kerviel.

At the age of 31 he is accused of defrauding the Societe Generale bank, leading to a loss of 4.9bn euros ($7.1bn; 3.7bn).

That tops the work of British trader Nick Leeson who, in 1995, bankrupted Barings bank by losing 860m - then worth $1.38bn - on Asian futures markets.

Societe Generale said Mr Kerviel, on a reasonably modest salary of less than 100,000 euros ($147,000, 74,000), appears to have netted no personal financial gain from his alleged schemes. His lawyers say he is not on the run and is ready to talk to the authorities.

All the same, he is the Most Wanted of the moment. The media pack and, in this digital age, the cyber community at large, have the scent and have been trying to track him down.

If a housewife can beat UK police to tracking down "missing-believed-dead" canoeist John Darwin using the Google search engine, then the right search might just hit the jackpot.

Nuisance neighbour

Jerome Kerviel's mailbox 25 January
Neighbours have left a note for further enquiries by journalists
Mr Kerviel's name was the 26th most popular search request entered on Google on Thursday - the top searches are usually sex-related.

Others have tried to glean information from his page on the social networking site Facebook. Those he had previously listed as friends quickly ran for cover. At the start of the day, Mr Kerviel had 11 so-called Facebook friends listed on his page. By the end of the day there were none.

The usual unsubstantiated online conspiracy theories are emerging, that he was not alone, or that the bank has created a scapegoat for its own mistakes.

If he was a genius, we didn't spot it
Dominique Chabert
University tutor
And tribute sites have also sprung up - one calling Mr Kerviel the victim and urging others to defend him, with the rallying cry: Let's find solutions as our values change!

On the more traditional trail of physically knocking on doors, neighbours seem to have had their fill of journalists' enquiries.

A handwritten note posted on letter boxes at his apartment building in Neuilly, on the outskirts of Paris, reads: "Journalists, to ease your work, Kerviel, third floor on the left, unknown in the house, apartment sublet to English-speaking people of Asian origin - Don't look for him here - He probably found shelter elsewhere long ago - Do not disturb other residents."

No troublemaker

The BBC's Mark Gregory says colleagues who worked with him at Societe Generale have described his temperament as fragile.

Facebook search
First port of call? Tribute sites have sprung up on Facebook
He is believed to have suffered a family bereavement in the last couple of years and it is also reported that he recently split up with his girlfriend.

According to what some bloggers claim is Mr Kerviel's curriculum vitae, he earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Nantes University in 1999 and a masters from Lyon University in 2000.

As well as listing interests in teaching children judo and sailing, his objective was to "reach a position as a retail listed derivative products trader".

One of Mr Kerviel's university tutors says he was not an outstanding student.

"If he was a genius, we didn't spot it," Dominique Chabert told AFP news agency.

"Jerome Kerviel was like most other students. He was hard working, not a troublemaker, either in class or during his work placements."

Blacker than Jack?

But he certainly shocked executives at Societe Generale, where he has worked since 2000, with the complexity and scale of his recent, now infamous, trades.

Kiefer Sutherland in 24
Mr Kerviel has admirers who compare him to 24's Jack Bauer
Societe Generale's Chief Executive Daniel Bouton called the fraud "extraordinarily sophisticated".

At the bank Mr Kerviel was not seen as a high flyer. He was essentially a junior employee working in what was seen as a low-risk, low-profit area of futures trading.

But the fact that one of the rank and file can be so daring and have such a monumental impact does earn Kerviel some degree of admiration.

One message on the Societe Generale forum page says simply: "Jerome Kerviel mieux que Jack Bauer" - Jerome Kerviel better than Jack Bauer, the hero of the 24 TV series.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Jerome Kerviel's answerphone message



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