Tapie in custody over scandal linked to IMF chief

24th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

French investigators on Monday placed disgraced tycoon Bernard Tapie in custody as they prepared to interrogate him in a corruption probe that has embroiled IMF chief Christine Lagarde.

Tapie, who can be held for up to four days without charge, was to be questioned over a 400-million-euro ($525 million) state payout he received in 2008 when Lagarde was France's finance minister.

A combative Tapie played down the procedure, telling Europe 1 radio: "I have had six or seven such appointments. The result: six acquittals and a discharge."

Three people have been charged over the scandal since May, including Stephane Richard, the head of telecommunications giant Orange.

The board of Orange, in which the French state is a major shareholder, has voted to let him remain company boss.

Richard was Lagarde's chief of staff when, in 2008, she sanctioned the payout to Tapie.

Lagarde is suspected of having rigged the process that led to the payout, thus ensuring that Tapie would get the cash in return for supporting her boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, in his successful 2007 presidential election campaign.

The IMF chief was questioned for two days in May about her role in the affair. She was not placed under formal investigation -- the French equivalent of being charged in other legal systems -- but she remains what is termed an "assisted witness", which means judges can summon her for further interrogation at any time.

The cash payout to Tapie, who served a prison sentence for match-fixing during his time as president of France's biggest football club, Olympique Marseille, related to a dispute between the businessman and partly state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over his 1993 sale of sports group Adidas.


© 2013 AFP

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