A Frenchman on supplementary income has been cleared of fraud after running up debts of almost €180,000 with his bank.
The 35-year-old had been receiving Revenu de Solidarité Active (RSA), a supplementary payment for those working but on low incomes, when he obtained a credit card and a cheque book from one of France's largest retail banks Crédit Agricole towards the end of 2008.
As the financial daily, Les Echos, reports he quickly totted up debts of €138,500 using his credit card for 1,351 operations.
He also wrote out €40,000-worth of cheques, all of them uncovered.
It took the bank two months to realise what had happened and it was only in February 2009 that it cancelled his card and filed a law suit accusing the man of fraud.
But as the national daily Aujourd'hui en France-Le Parisien reports, at Thursday's hearing in the eastern French town of Saint-Dié his lawyer Gérard Welzer argued that there had been no evidence of fraud.
"The case is once again evidence of an alarming failure by a bank," he said pointing out that Crédit Agricole had been slow to react to the quick accumulation of a debt by someone in a "precarious" financial situation.
"Did my client use another person's card or wear a false moustache or wig?" he asked.
"No. And in the eyes of the law using a credit card without having sufficient funds to cover transactions doesn't constitute fraud."
While the bank wasn't present at the hearing, it will be recovering the money, albeit in instalments, as the man has been ordered to make monthly payments of €150 for the next 77 years.
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