Trichet has come under the media spotlight in recent weeks following his appearance in court this month on charges arising from a 10-year-old banking scandal. The trial concerns events at Crédit Lyonnais, which ran-up major losses after a breakneck lending programme went sour in the early 1990s. The French bank then had to be bailed by French taxpayers to the tune of Ffr140 billion (£13.8 billion).
Trichet, who was director of the treasury department at the French finance ministry at the time, which oversaw the state's financial dealings, was charged with complicity in an alleged cover-up of the extent to which provisions against the losses were understated. His lawyers have argued that he had neither the precise information nor the power to dictate what the bank reported in its accounts.
But the trial has cast a shadow over Trichet's viability as the most likely successor to Duisenberg as president of the ECB. Trichet was tipped to replace Duisenberg in July this year, but it is unlikely that he would be a suitable candidate unless the outstanding legal matters are favourably resolved ahead of this date.
As head of the French central bank, Trichet is a member of the ECB's governing council.
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