By Nicola Clark and Katrin Bennhold

Feb 10, International Herald Tribune

PARIS: After sifting through nearly 2,000 pages of instant message traffic, the police investigating the trading scandal at Société Générale were moving toward a theory Sunday in which Jérôme Kerviel, whom the bank blames for nearly €5 billion of losses, may not have acted alone, as he and the bank have claimed.

Instead, they believe he may have been trying to protect a friend who, it appears, helped him cover his tracks - until one final, fake e-mail message, purportedly from Deutsche Bank, brought the whole house of cards crashing down on Kerviel last month.

The transcript of instant messages between the two men on an internal Reuters system from October 2007 to January suggests that the friend, Moussa Bakir, had an intimate knowledge of Kerviel's surreptitious trading and that Kerviel was well aware of the gravity of his actions.

Two people with knowledge of the investigation said that they had also found other evidence suggesting that Kerviel and Bakir, a 32-year-old broker at Newedge, a subsidiary of Société Générale formerly known as Fimat, were in nearly constant contact. "Very many" of the telephone calls that appeared on Kerviel's personal mobile phone bill - which some months reached as high as €1,000, or $1,450 - were to Bakir, according to one of the people.

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photo: A screen shot from a Web page of a man identified on the site as Moussa Bakir. The French police questioned and released Bakir, a trader at Société Générale. (Adam Berry/Bloomberg News)