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Ex-Airbus parent CEO charged in French probe

French judges filed preliminary insider trading charges Friday against Noel Forgeard, a former co-chief executive of Airbus parent EADS, his lawyer said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

French judges filed preliminary insider trading charges Friday against Noel Forgeard, a former co-chief executive of Airbus parent EADS, his lawyer said.

The investigating judges ordered Forgeard freed after two days in the custody of financial police pending the investigation, lawyer Jean-Alain Michel said.

Investigators are looking into the sale of EADS shares by top executives and shareholders before a June 2006 announcement of delays for the A380 superjumbo that made EADS shares crash 26 percent in one day.

Forgeard has denied wrongdoing.

Forgeard told judges Xaviere Simeoni and Cecile Pendaries during questioning "that he had not committed insider trading" and that to his knowledge neither had any other EADS executives, his lawyer said.

Preliminary charges under French law mean the investigating judges have strong reason to suspect involvement in a crime, giving them more time to investigate. Judges decide later whether or not there is enough evidence for a trial.

These charges do not mean "an element of guilt," Michel said.

Forgeard, who resigned from EADS in 2006, was detained by authorities Wednesday morning, in a new blow to the company as it emerges from a rocky couple of years plagued by trouble with the A380 and management turmoil. Airbus is also now suffering the fallout of difficulty in the global airline industry linked to soaring fuel prices.

The judges' probe into alleged insider trading at EADS was opened in late 2006. Last September, the French financial market watchdog AMF issued a preliminary report pointing to suspicions of "massive" insider trading by 21 top managers of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. NV between November 2005 and March 2006.