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French Police Raids Vivendi HQ

by Thomas on Dec. 12, 2002 @ 5:29 p.m. PST

French police raided Vivendi Universal's headquarters and other unspecified premises Thursday as part of a financial-accounts investigation, judicial and police sources said Thursday. The raid, by financial-division police, is part of a probe into potential irregularities in Vivendi's accounts when under the leadership of former chairman and chief executive Jean-Marie Messier, the sources said. A spokesman for the French media company has confirmed a search was being performed at Vivendi's headquarters and was related to the accounts investigation.

"We confirm the raid is taking place and are fully cooperating with the investigation," said a Vivendi spokesman.

In October the Paris prosecutor's office launched an inquiry into Vivendi. It is investigating "publication of false balance sheets for the fiscal years ended Dec. 31, 2000 and 2001," and for "release of false or misleading information on prospects for 2001 and 2002."

French daily newspaper Les Echos, in an unsourced report on its website Thursday, said police have also searched the homes of Messier in Paris and in the Paris region.

The report said the searches should continue all day Thursday and Friday in various premises.

The Paris prosecutor's office launched an investigation into Vivendi's account following a complaint by minority shareholders' association APPAC.

Messier was ousted as chairman and CEO of Vivendi in July and replaced by Jean-Rene Fourtou, amid a major liquidity crisis and mounting debt at the company.

Asset disposals and a restructuring plan have allowed Fourtou to avert a cash crunch.

Vivendi's share price slid on news of the police raid. At 1200 GMT the stock was down 2.2% at EUR15.82, off an earlier high of EUR16.65.

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