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Civil trial of AIG ex-CEO starts

WITNESSES began testifying yesterday in the United States civil trial of American International Group Inc's former top executive, accused of plundering an AIG retirement program of billions of US dollars.

Attorney Theodore Wells told jurors on Monday in Manhattan that former Chief Executive Officer Maurice "Hank" Greenberg improperly took US$4.3 billion in stock from the company in 2005, after he was ousted by the company amid investigations of accounting irregularities.

"Hank Greenberg was mad. He was angry," Wells said in a district court of the emotional state of the man who, over a 35-year career, built AIG from a small company into the world's largest insurance provider. He said the saga is a story of "anger, betrayal and cover-up."

Wells said that Greenberg, within weeks of being forced out in mid-2005, gave the go-ahead for tens of millions of shares to be sold from a trust fund. The fund was set up decades ago to provide incentive bonuses to a select group of AIG management and highly compensated employees that they would get upon their retirement.

Wells showed the jury several clips of Greenberg speaking on videotape about the responsibilities of the trust fund.

He called it Greenberg's "videotaped confession."

Wells asked the jury to award AIG US$4.276 billion and 185 million AIG shares.

Greenberg, 84, has said through his lawyers that he had the right to sell the shares because they were owned by Starr International, a privately held company he controlled.

Greenberg's lawyer, David Boies, told the jury in his opening statement that a study of the documents in the case would prove that the shares sold by his client did not belong to AIG.

"I disagree with a great many things that Mr Wells said," Boies told the jury. "Look in this case not to what people said after this lawsuit started," he said. "Look to what they said and did and wrote before the lawsuit started."

Starr International was named after Cornelius Vander Starr, who created a worldwide network of insurance companies in the early 1900s.


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