updated 8/31/2009 2:52:19 PM ET 2009-08-31T18:52:19

French judges on Monday ordered ex-Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel to stand trial over transactions that cost the bank billions of euros, a judicial official said.

Kerviel is charged with forgery, breach of trust and unauthorized computer use. He risks up to five years in prison and 375,000 euros in fines if convicted.

Investigating judges on Monday sent the case to trial in Paris, an official said. The trial is not expected until early 2010. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of judicial rules.

Societe Generale caused a firestorm when amid market turmoil in January 2008 it announced one of history's biggest trading losses, totaling almost 5 billion euros (more than $7 billion), in a scandal it blamed on unauthorized trades by a single trader, Kerviel.

Kerviel says his superiors were aware of his risky transactions but looked the other way while he was earning money for the bank, intervening only when he started to lose. The bank insists Kerviel was acting alone.

French investigators wrapped up their yearlong probe in January. The Paris prosecutor's office requested in June that Kerviel stand trial, and judges Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Francoise Desset finalized the decision with a formal order Monday.

Jean Veil, lawyer for Societe Generale, welcomed the decision.

Though he hadn't yet seen the judges' order, he said it appeared that "Societe Generale's thesis was confirmed by the judges."

One of Kerviel's lawyers, Francis Tissot, called the move "regrettable" but would not further comment.

Kerviel was in jail for six weeks in 2008 at the start of the probe but was released under judicial supervision.

Employed at the bank since 2000, Kerviel worked his way up from a desk that monitors traders to a job on the futures desk where he invested the bank's money by hedging on European equity market indices. Judges investigated some 50 billion euros of what Societe Generale says were unauthorized trade positions held by Kerviel.

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