The CEO of telecoms giant Orange, Stéphane Richard, has been placed under formal investigation in a case involving decisions made by IMF chief Christine Lagarde when she was France's finance minister. Richard was then serving as her chief-of-staff.
The CEO of telecoms giant Orange, Stéphane Richard, was placed under formal investigation Wednesday in a case involving decisions made by IMF chief Christine Lagarde when she was France's finance minister and Richard was serving as her chief-of-staff.
Richard was preliminarily charged with taking part in organised fraud, a crime that carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a €1 million fine.
The case, known in France as the “Tapie Affair”, centres on a controversial multi-million euro payout made to French businessman Bernard Tapie.
Lagarde ordered a 2008 panel to arbitrate a dispute between Tapie and state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais over the 1993 sale of his stake in sports empire Adidas. Tapie claimed the bank 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.
The arbitration panel agreed, and Tapie received a €400 million ($515 million) payout.
Investigators have been probing whether Tapie received favourable treatment from the panel in return for having supported Lagarde’s boss, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, in the 2007 presidential election.
Richard served as Lagarde’s chief-of-staff during her 2007-2011 tenure as Sarkozy’s finance minister.
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”.
The case has become something of a national embarrassment, with a number of prominent French political figures finding themselves caught up in the ongoing investigation.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-06-12