Roger Tamraz, an international financier and leading figure in the ongoing investigation into cash-for-access at the White House, was charged secretly here last month with fraud for diverting as much as $47 million from a French bank he controlled, according to court documents. He is to go on trial next year.

Tamraz, who donated $300,000 to the Democratic Party in 1995-96, denied the charges during an interview here and said they stem from political maneuvering against him in Lebanon.

The French charges are the second time allegations have been made about criminal financial activity in Tamraz's flamboyant past. He also is wanted in Lebanon for the alleged embezzlement of $200 million in relation to the failure of a bank he controlled there; the French court documents say he funneled money from the French bank, which later was closed by the government for insolvency, to the Lebanese bank.

It is not known whether U.S. intelligence officials were aware of the French charges, the result of an eight-year investigation. The CIA sent two memos about Tamraz to the National Security Council when a meeting between him and President Clinton was being considered in 1996, the first of them said to include some derogatory information.

The French judicial investigatory process is secret, but the filing of lawsuits is not, and a group of depositors who lost money in the French bank failure took Tamraz to court in 1991.

"The fact that I filed suit, that the {investigating} judge heard hundreds of witnesses, was not secret," said Guy Sorman, a well-known French writer and intellectual who heads the depositors' group. "I was amazed when Roger Tamraz surfaced again in the United States."

Sorman lost about $1 million in the bank's failure, though he recovered about half that sum in the subsequent buyout of the liquidated bank by a private purchaser. Others among the bank's 2,000 depositors, according to French press reports at the time, were a branch of the Club Mediterranee and the government of Congo; on average, aided also by the French deposit-security system, depositors got half their money back.

Tamraz, a Lebanese who became an American citizen in 1989, has not been detained and moves freely between New York and Paris. A trial date will be set at a hearing on Jan. 14. Tamraz says he plans to attend his trial and offer a full defense, adding, "I will respect the judgment. . . . I'm not running away. I want to force the issue."

Tamraz faces three formal charges: bank fraud, conflict of interest and abuse of trust. The court documents, the summation of investigating magistrate Georges Maman's eight-year inquiry, say that Tamraz controlled the Banque de Participations et Placements (BPP) from the end of 1987, when it was purchased from another bank, until January 1989, shortly before the government closed it down.

During roughly the same period, Tamraz controlled the Almashrek Bank of Beirut. According to the documents, he transferred more than $47 million from the BPP to the Almashrek Bank. At the same time, he diverted $475,000 to a woman named Abla Nasser and $180,000 for his personal use, the investigating judge found.

The board of directors of the BPP was not aware of the transfers, according to the documents, because Tamraz presented members with a false balance sheet for the bank's financial statements.

Tamraz, while not denying the $47 million was lent to the Almashrek Bank, offered a different version of events. At the time he bought the BPP in conjunction with the Lebanese government, he said, he was close to then-President Amin Gemayel. But Gemayel left power in September 1988, and forces hostile to Tamraz -- in particular, he said, the governor of the central bank -- acquired more power. These forces encouraged negative newspaper articles about Tamraz, he said, that caused a run on Almashrek Bank.

Thus, the $47 million loan that the BPP had made to Almashrek could not be repaid. Tamraz said that Nasser was his secretary and that what the court said were diversions of funds to her and to himself were actually business expenses. As for the alleged false balance sheet, "I never presented a balance sheet. . . . I never managed the bank," he said. "In all my life I went there three times."

The failure of the bank was widely noted in the French press. When Tamraz resurfaced this year in reports about his Democratic Party contributions and his efforts to gain White House support for an oil pipeline in central Asia, there was some amusement in French newspapers.

Le Monde said: "In suddenly reappearing in the center of the American political stage in the context of the scandal over financing of the presidential campaign by the Democratic Party, Roger Tamraz is staying faithful to his character. . . . This Lebanese financier is a man of networks, weaving his cloth across several continents."