Criminal probe 'won’t affect' Lagarde's job at IMF
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An inquiry into recently appointed IMF chief Christine Lagarde's actions as French finance minister won't jeopardise her position, lawyers say. The investigation, announced Thursday, will look into allegations of abuse of power.
Christine Lagarde is to be investigated in France over her involvement in a controversial legal wrangle between a top businessman and a state-owned bank. The decision to probe the former minister, made Thursday by a special court, comes after years of speculation and Socialist efforts to see her investigated.
Lagarde is accused of unfairly intervening in a long-running legal battle between media mogul Bernard Tapie and then state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais, in 2008. After Lagarde – then finance minister – ordered that the case be settled out of court, Tapie won a settlement of €285 million euros. Despite objections from advisors, Lagarde then chose not to oppose the decision. Suspicions were amplified due to Tapie’s links with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had taken office a few months earlier.
Asked about the case at her very first press conference as head of the IMF earlier this month, Lagarde confidently replied that she had “no concerns whatsoever.” The IMF board reiterated her claims in a statement on Thursday, saying they were “confident that she will be able to effectively carry out her duties as managing director”.
Paris-based economist Frédéric Bonnevay went even further, saying that the inquiry could be “harmful” to France’s image. “This is counter-productive,” he argued. “The interests of the state should come above implicating [Lagarde].” Bonnevay described the timing as “inappropriate," given recent events. “The public are bound to view this negatively, especially in the US. It could also distract the IMF leaders from their work, when they’ve already got enough to do.”
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