Jean-Marie Messier, the former chairman and chief executive of French media-to-telecoms group Vivendi Universal, has been taken into custody as part of a probe into stock manipulation, a French judicial source says.

“He is being held at the financial brigade on the instructions of judge Henri Pons,” the source said on Monday, adding that Jean-Marie Messier’s detention is expected to last 24 hours but could be extended to 48 hours.

The investigation is related to the buyback of Vivendi Universal shares in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Vivendi repurchased about 21 million shares between September 17, 2001 and October 2, 2001, in transactions suspected by prosecutors of violating French stock market rules that bar buybacks 15 days before the publication of financial results.

Messier, in charge at the time of the trades, has said he acted within the bounds of the law and in the interest of shareholders.

Messier was forced out as Vivendi chief in July 2002 after overseeing an acquisition spree which left the company saddled with debt and short of cash.

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