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Police Raid Vivendi Paris Headquarters

Dec 12, 2002 | Expatica, Netherlands

A financial fraud squad searched the Paris headquarters of French media group Vivendi Universal Thursday, the group said, as part of an investigation into alleged misleading financial accounts.

The French media and communications group said in a statement that a team of financial fraud squad investigators were searching the group's headquarters.

The raid follows a complaint against "X" filed in July, the group said, adding that it was entirely at the disposal of the authorities.

The raid at Vivendi Universal's headquarters was ordered by a three-judge investigation panel charged with looking into a complaint that the group had presented misleading financial accounts.

Cegetel, Vivendi Universal's telecommunications subsidiary, also said a fraud squad team had raided its headquarters in the same investigation.

Neither Vivendi Universal nor Cegetel gave further details, notably about whether documents were seized.

A Vivendi Universal spokesman did not confirm reports that raids also had been conducted at the home of Jean-Marie Messier, the parent group's ousted chairman.

A source close to the inquiry told AFP that documents had been seized at Vivendi Universal headquarters and raids led by the fraud squad were still underway at midday.

The source also said that raids were conducted at the homes of certain individuals. The French business daily Les Echos reported on its Internet website that Messier's home was searched.

In October, the Paris prosecutor opened an investigation into the way Vivendi Universal's accounts were presented by the former board headed by Messier.

The legal probe was launched following a complaint lodged in July against "X" by the small shareholders organization APPAC (Association des petits porteurs actifs), alleging that Vivendi Universal had mispresented financial accounts and hid the severity of the group's liquidity problems, thus inflating share value.

The complaint against defendant "X" said financial statements for the years 2000 and 2001 were incorrect and the company presented false or misleading information on its outlooks in 2001 and 2002. Messier was in charge during those years.

Messier was ousted in July and replaced by Jean-Rene Fourtou.

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