French rogue trader just wasn't capable of this by himself, says his 'very close' friend the bank brunette


Last updated at 01:41 03 February 2008

The closest companion of rogue trader Jerome Kerviel has broken her silence to "defend him to the hilt" over his role in the world's biggest banking fraud.

Corinne Bourset claimed her friend "wasn't capable" of pulling off the elaborate deception that cost France's second-largest bank £3.7billion on his own – but refused to name anyone else who might be involved.

The attractive 33-year-old worked alongside Kerviel at Societe Generale; but while he was involved in catastrophic multi-million-pound gambles on the volatile futures

market, she was a lowly "assistante", carrying out mundane administrative duties.

They became close friends – but not, Ms Bourset insists, a couple. However, she would not deny that they had been romantically involved, looking away shyly when asked.

From her modest one-bedroom flat on the southern outskirts of Paris, Ms Bourset said: "I became an assistante in February. I do admin but I was there for a good amount of time before I started this job.

"I made friends with Jerome very quickly he was nice and good to

be with, although quite serious

as well. I would say the two of us

are very close.

"We have always got on very well – not just as colleagues, but more than that.

"Societe Generale has advised me not to talk about the situation at

the firm but I feel I can talk about Jerome freely as it is a personal relationship. Because he is such a good friend I will always defend him to

the hilt.

"I cannot say anything about who else might be involved but I don't think he was capable of this on his own."

Mr Kerviel could face charges of forgery, computer hacking and breach of trust for bypassing security controls to take unauthorised gambles on the way the stock market would move. However, he also claims his superiors turned a blind eye to his activities as long as he made a profit.

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Ms Bourset added: "He was a hard worker and has always been a consummate professional. If there is a job to do, he does it well. I just cannot believe he has anything to do with the fraud.

"Since all this has happened, I haven't had the chance to speak to Jerome at all – I don't even know where he is. Regarding the atmosphere at work now, I really don't feel I can say anything. We all hope Jerome is OK, but that is about it."

A mutual colleague last night suggested Ms Bourset and 31-year-old Kerviel could have been more than just friends, saying: "I can't say if they were dating, but there was a rumour. They talked a lot and were quite secretive. It seemed to me there was more going on than meets the eye. She

is a very nice girl and I'm sure she is

worried about him, as we all are.

"He is probably more serious than

her and more private, but they made a nice pair even if they did not officially go out together."

Ms Bourset, the daughter of contact-lens designer Claude Bourset, grew up in Creteil, a university town seven miles from the French capital.

Friends at the Lycee Leon Blum, where she studied from 1992 to 1994, described a warm, generous but ultimately shy girl.

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Her father, who still lives in Creteil, yesterday refused to comment on the relationship, suggesting Ms Bourset was a private person but more than capable of speaking for herself.

Although her apartment is in a dour block, inside it is furnished fashionably, as befitting a young urban professional.

A Catholic, Ms Bourset is rarely seen without a large black crucifix around

her neck. But she also has an extrovert streak, enjoying nights out with male friends at one of Paris's most fashionable nightclubs, Regine's Club, just off the Champs-Elysees.

On her page on the Facebook social

networking website, Ms Bourset shows her light-hearted side, as she has joined groups bemoaning people who stand

on the left-hand side of escalators,

and men who find it hard to wake up in the mornings.

She also signed up to a group

pledging to "gobble up the Brits"

at last year's Rugby World

Cup semi-final although, to her chagrin, England eventually defeated France.

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