Stéphane Richard, CEO of French telecoms company Orange and former chief of staff for ex-finance minister Christine Lagarde, was questioned Monday in connection with a probe into a multi-million euro payout to businessman Bernard Tapie.
French police detained Stéphane Richard, the CEO of French telecommunications firm Orange, for questioning on Monday in what is the latest twist in the so-called “Tapie Affair”, a judicial investigation into a controversial multi-million euro payout made to French businessman Bernard Tapie.
The case has been an embarrassment for France as a number of prominent French figures, including former finance minister and current International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, have found themselves embroiled in the investigation.
Richard served as Lagarde’s chief-of-staff during her tenure as finance minister for former president Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 until 2011. A spokesperson for Richard said that the questioning could last up to 48 hours before an official decision is made on whether to place him under investigation. Orange has declined to comment on the incident.
The massive cash settlement awarded to Tapie followed a dispute between the disgraced tycoon and partly state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais over the 1993 sale of his stake in sports empire Adidas.
An arbitration panel upheld Tapie's claim that Crédit Lyonnais had defrauded him by intentionally undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale and that the state, as the bank's principal shareholder, should compensate him.
It was Lagarde who, in her role as French finance minister at the time, ordered the case to be heard by the panel.
Lagarde, who has always denied any wrongdoing, was questioned in May over her role in approving the arbitration process but avoided being charged. She was instead given the less compromising status of “assisted witness”.
Investigators have been probing whether Tapie, who served as a junior minister under Socialist former president François Mitterrand, received favourable treatment in return for having supported ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-06-10