After nearly two days of enjoying the famed hospitality of the Paris gendarmerie, erstwhile Vivendi Universal chairman/ceo Jean-Marie Messier emerged from the calaboose after paying bail of €1.3 million ($1.63m; £897.6k).

The disgraced dealmaker extraordinaire was released by a French magistrate after a brief appearance in court. He is likely to be formally charged in the near future with offences that carry fines totalling several millions of euros-- even prison.

Messier, together with several other former Vivendi executives, is under suspicion of breaking French stockmarket rules when in September 2001 Vivendi bought twenty-one million of the company's own shares within a few days of publishing its financial results -- a practice illegal under French law.

Even outside the fifteen-day limit imposed on such transactions, no purchase may exceed 25% of average share trading volume.

Also under prosecutors' microscope is the $30 billion Seagram purchase negotiated by Messier with Canada's Bronfman family. This left the Vivendi empire all but bankrupt.

Messier welcomed the judicial probe and proclaimed his innocence of any illegal behaviour.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff