French govt minister convicted of public insult

A Paris court has convicted a member of new French President Francois Hollande's government for publicly insulting the management of a ferry company, but only fined him 4 euros ($5).

Arnaud Montebourg, an anti-globalization firebrand and minister for industrial recovery, said in a newspaper interview last year that the directors of cross-Channel ferry operator SeaFrance were "crooks." Loss-making SeaFrance, which had hundreds of employees, halted operations last year.

The Paris court on Wednesday convicted Montebourg of "public insult." The fine will go to four SeaFrance directors.

Montebourg has said his comments did not overstep any bounds, but members of the conservative UMP party called for Montebourg's resignation.

The conviction is an embarrassment for Hollande's new government, which signed an unprecedented ethics charter when it took office last week.