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Originally published Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:13 AM

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Top French lawyer's body found washed up on beach

Police have discovered the body of one of France's most prominent lawyers washed up on a beach near his home in Brittany.

The Associated Press

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PARIS —

Police have discovered the body of one of France's most prominent lawyers washed up on a beach near his home in Brittany.

The Vannes public prosecutor's office said 63-year-old Olivier Metzner was found dead about 9 a.m. on the coast of his private island, Boedic, which he had acquired in 2010.

Police said he left a note, but they could not confirm French media reports that it was a suicide letter.

His associate, Antonin Levy, told The Associated Press that Metzner's death represented a huge loss to the French bar, calling him a "great lawyer and a fighter."

In his four-decade-long career, Metzner became famous in France for taking the trickiest and most media-watched cases - sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

He defended trader Jerome Kerviel, who stood accused of committing one of the biggest trading frauds in history. He also helped the daughter of France's richest woman and l'Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, who was at loggerheads with her mother over the family fortune.

He also defended Continental Airlines over the 2000 Concorde crash - one of the most high-profile disasters in aviation history. Metzner won a surprise ruling only last year to have manslaughter charges against the U.S. airline overturned.

In 2009, Metzner defended former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin over the politician's alleged role in a smear campaign against former President Nicolas Sarkozy. The accusations centered on an alleged campaign to discredit Sarkozy in 2004, while he was still a rising government minister with his sights on France's highest office.

Villepin was eventually acquitted.

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