The former German head of aircraft manufacturer Airbus, Gustav Humbert, was detained for questioning by France's financial crime unit June 30 in connection with alleged insider trading at Airbus parent EADS, a source close to the probe said.
Humbert is the first German member of the cross-border aviation and engineering giant to be brought in for questioning -- and the third high-level figure to be publicly implicated by investigators.
Former EADS chief executive Noel Forgeard and the company's former general manager, Jean-Paul Gut, have already been charged in the probe although both have denied any wrongdoing.
The 58-year-old Humbert's lawyer, Nicolas Morvilliers, could not be contacted June 30, while EADS officials would "neither confirm, nor deny not comment on an ongoing investigation."
The French financial market regulator, AMF, in April alleged in a report that Humbert sold 160,000 EADS shares in November 2005, earning US$2.7 million).
He is suspected of having benefited from privileged information on EADS' financial prospects as well as delays to the Airbus A380 superjumbo project, which were announced in June 2006 and caused the stock to fall sharply.
The source said Humbert, who took over Airbus in June 2005 and resigned in July 2006, was taken into custody on orders from investigating judges Xaviere Simeoni and Cecile Pendaries.
He can be held for up to 48 hours, during which time he can be brought before the magistrates who can either decide to charge him or to designate him as a witness in the case.
In total, 17 members and former members of EADS and its main subsidiary Airbus' management, both French and German, are suspected of insider trading by the French regulator.
These include the present head of Airbus, German Thomas Enders, the French head of a space engineering subsidiary EADS Astrium, Francois Auque, and another Airbus manager, Fabrice Bregier, formerly chief executive of Eurocopter.
The announcement in June 2006 of a six-month production delay on the A380, the world's largest airliner, threw EADS -- the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company -- and its aircraft unit into crisis.
The EADS share price fell 26% on the stock market and Airbus launched a restructuring program to shed 10,000 jobs.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008