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Cantona's call for run on the banks causes French alarm


Eric Cantona: 'The system is built on the power of the banks'. Photo: Reuters

Eric Cantona: 'The system is built on the power of the banks'. Photo: Reuters

Eric Cantona: 'The system is built on the power of the banks'. Photo: Reuters

FRENCH ministers and bankers have issued warnings that an appeal by Eric Cantona, the former Manchester United footballer, for people to withdraw all their money from banks could propel France into economic chaos.

The footballer turned actor raised eyebrows -- and in some cases a laugh -- when he first made the suggestion in October.

But with three days to go before the great bank pullout and with hundreds of thousands having viewed the online call of 'King Eric' -- his football nickname -- the 'joke' is wearing thin for France's government and the country's top banks.

Francois Baroin, the budget minister, panned the idea as more "tragic" than comic, while Christine Lagarde, the finance minister said: "He is a magnificent footballer, but I'm not sure we need to pay heed to all his suggestions," she said.

Baudoin Prot, the chief executive of BNP Paribas, France's largest bank, said Mr Cantona's call was "totally irresponsible", adding: "It goes against anything that could assure the functioning of the economy."

Mr Cantona outlined his bank-crash plan in a video interview with the regional French newspaper, 'Presse Ocean'.

"What is the system?" asked the man famous for his philosophical asides. "It revolves around the banks. The system is built on the power of the banks, so it can be destroyed through the banks.

"The three million people in the street, they go to the bank, withdraw their money and the banks collapse.

That's a real threat, there's a real revolution."

It would be a quick, painless blow, he claimed, adding: "No weapons, no blood, nothing at all. Then we'll be listened to."

Mr Cantona's appeal inspired Geraldine Feuillien and Yann Sarfati, a Belgian screenwriter and French director, to create the website bankrun2010.com, which is calling for a withdrawal of money on Tuesday.

They have opened a Facebook site in France, where 32,000 people have signed up to the cause. A further 25,000 say they might withdraw their cash.

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"What Eric Cantona said, I had been thinking for a while," said Miss Feuillien. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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