Supermarket CEO detained in stock manipulation probe

The head of a top French supermarket chain was briefly taken into custody for questioning Thursday in an inquiry over stock price manipulation, insider trading and corruption suspicions, a source close to the case said.

Jean-Charles Naouri — already under pressure to reduce debt at retailer Casino — was held in Paris by judges probing links between the CEO and a populist financial journalist who has made several attempts at the French presidency.

The alleged acts date to 2018 and 2019, the source told AFP, with judges investigating since 2020. Lawyers for Naouri did not respond to requests for comment.

Sources familiar with the matter told AFP later Thursday that Naouri had been released without charges being brought against him at this stage.

Investigators searched Casino’s headquarters as well as Naouri’s home in May 2022.

According to French daily Le Parisien, Casino paid more than 800,000 euros ($857,000) to several companies controlled by Nicolas Miguet, editor of financial newsletters who has sought the French presidency on an anti-tax platform.

The French financial markets regulator AMF, which lodged the complaint, suspects that in exchange Miguet made “buy” recommendations on Casino shares in his various publications and statements.

In a recent financial filing, Casino said the legal inquiry was based only on “an encounter with a former consultant to Casino” and denied the allegations.

Naouri’s detention comes after a Paris court ordered last week that Casino, whose debt mountain stood at 6.4 billion euros at the end of 2022, be placed in conciliatory proceedings with creditors ahead of a potential debt restructuring.

The share price of the group — which employs more than 200,000 people worldwide under several brands — hit a record low in Paris at the end of trading on Thursday. -© Agence France-Presse-