Fraud investigators are looking into allegations that European civil servants might be implicated in insider trading. French financial authorities say a breach of stock market rules may have occurred within the European Commission. It relates to the purchase of French aluminium and packaging firm Pechiney by its Canadian rival Alcan, in 2003, making it world number two. Paris daily Le Figaro reports that some 11 million shares changed hands within days of the Commission receiving notice of the takeover plan, before it was made public. The movements were worth more than five million euros…to someone.
A spokesman in Brussels said it did not know who. He made clear that the names of people working with the previous commission had been turned over but that today’s executive had no reason to believe that any of the civil servants employed there were implicated. Alcan-Pechiney has confirmed it knew of the investigation. Le Figaro called it potentially explosive for Europe’s competition authorities. The EU’s own anti-fraud body OLAF, studying the information, says the case looks like a job for French justice.