SocGen Banker to Give Secret Testimony in Libya Bribery Case

  • Marc El Asmar fears self-incrimination in U.S. criminal probe
  • Libyan wealth fund is suing Societe Generale in London

A Societe Generale SA executive will have his testimony in a Libyan bribery lawsuit heard in secret because of the risk he may incriminate himself in a U.S. criminal probe.

Judge Nigel Teare refused a request by head of sales for global markets Marc El Asmar to escape testifying, according to the banker’s attorneys, who said on Monday that his inclusion in the trial carries the “threat of foreign incrimination.” He’ll give evidence in private when the trial starts later this year.

The bank is being sued by the Libyan Investment Authority, which alleges billion-dollar investment deals with the French lender were tainted by bribery and intimidation of Libyan officials. The London lawsuit is running in parallel with a separate U.S. Justice Department investigation. A DOJ subpoena issued to the bank named El Asmar, making it more likely he will be included in the probe, his lawyer Alex Bailin said at a pre-trial hearing Monday.

Even if his testimony “was not used as evidence in criminal trial, it may be used to shape the DOJ’s investigation,” Bailin said. “Any questions may expose him to the real risk of incrimination in the U.S.”

Societe Generale said in its 2015 annual report that it is co-operating with American authorities and denies allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the Libya deals. The bank has reviewed more than 600,000 documents and audio files for the investigation. Murray Parker, a London-based spokesman for Societe Generale, declined to comment.

Libya’s $60 billion sovereign-wealth fund is suing the French lender to recoup losses from derivative deals dating to the rule of former leader Moammar Qaddafi. The LIA also sued Goldman Sachs Group Inc. but lost its case in October when a London judge ruled the fund hadn’t been misled.

Having his evidence heard in private “combined with my client being forced to testify under threat of contempt would offer some protection against U.S. prosecution,” Bailin said. Even so, the DOJ has already sought information from the U.K. Serious Fraud Office that is covered by a court confidentiality order and may do so again, he added.

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