updated 5/28/2008 11:49:55 AM ET 2008-05-28T15:49:55

A former co-chief executive of Airbus parent EADS was detained Wednesday in connection with an investigation into alleged insider trading, a French judicial official said.

Noel Forgeard, who resigned in 2006, can be held for up to 48 hours for questioning.

The official was not authorized to talk publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Investigators are looking into the sale of EADS shares by top executives and big shareholders before a June 2006 announcement of delays for the much-anticipated A380 wide-body airliner. EADS shares crashed 26 percent in one day.

The French market regulator last month initiated sanction procedures against Forgeard and 16 of his former colleagues, many of whom continue to work for the company.

EADS spokesman Pierre Bayle declined to comment Wednesday.

EADS CEO Louis Gallois said in a letter to staff last month that his “confidence in EADS managers is total.”

Forgeard, 61, was named the first president and CEO of Airbus in 2001 after 12 years in the Lagardere Group, now one of EADS’ top shareholders. Decades ago, Forgeard served as industrial adviser for then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac — France’s president from 1995 to 2007.

In March 2006, he exercised 2.5 million euros ($3.92 million at the time) worth of stock options, just before Airbus announced costly delays to the A380 superjumbo.

In a newspaper interview last month, Forgeard said he did nothing wrong but acknowledges that “in hindsight, it would have been better if I hadn’t done it.”

Speaking to reporters at the Berlin Air Show, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said the planemaker was not seeing as strong a year as it had in 2007, but that the company had 397 orders in the first four months of the year.

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