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French tycoon Tapie demands €1 billion in damages over Adidas sale

© Franck Pennant, AFP | French businessman Bernard Tapie at a press conference in Marseille on March 12, 2014

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-09-29

Twenty years after Bernard Tapie sold his share in sportwear giant Adidas, lawyers for the French tycoon asked Tuesday for more than €1 billion in damages over the deal, reopening a longstanding legal feud with the now-defunct bank Crédit Lyonnais.

The case comes after a court ruled on February 17 to nullify a controversial €400 million state payout ordered by an arbitration panel in 2008 for Tapie, a former politician and businessman, over the 1993 sale of the sportswear company.

The arbitration panel had 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.

In her role at the time as French finance minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde ordered the case to be heard by an arbitration panel instead of proceeding through the regular courts.

Some have alleged that Lagarde granted Tapie, a Socialist, preferential treatment by referring the matter to arbitration in exchange for his financial support for Sarkozy in his 2007 presidential bid. Lagarde has always denied any wrongdoing and earlier this month France’s top prosecutor general recommended that charges of negligence against her be dropped.

Critics argue that the state should not have paid compensation to a convicted criminal who was bankrupt at the time and would not have been able to pursue the case in court. Tapie spent six months in prison in 1997 for match-fixing during his time as president of France's biggest football club, Olympique Marseille.

Tapie was placed under formal investigation for committing fraud as part of an organised gang in late June of 2013. That same year, a French court ordered the seizure of Tapie's assets worth tens of millions of euros, including a luxury villa on the French Mediterranean coast.

“I didn’t realise I live in a country where people are executed before they are sentenced,” Tapie said at the time in an interview with French TV channel iTele.

Tapie is now set to reopen the case, known in France as the “Tapie Affair”. His lawyer, Emmanuel Gaillard, said that he has documents proving that the sale of Adidas by Crédit Lyonnais was “premeditated”.

Crédit Lyonnais, now part of Crédit Agricole, has previously denied any wrongdoing.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-09-29

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