IMF boss La­garde to go on trial in France

The Myanmar Times - - Business -

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL Mon­e­tary Fund chief Chris­tine La­garde will go on trial in France in De­cem­ber over a mas­sive state pay­out to ty­coon Bernard Tapie when she was fi­nance min­is­ter, the court hear­ing the case an­nounced.

Ms La­garde, 60, will be tried for neg­li­gence by the Court of Jus­tice, a tri­bunal that hears cases against min­is­ters ac­cused of wrong­do­ing in the dis­charge of their du­ties.

The IMF boss, who has re­peat­edly protested her in­no­cence, faces up to a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 eu­ros (US$16,850) if found guilty.

The case threat­ens to over­shadow Ms La­garde’s oth­er­wise stel­lar ca­reer, which has seen the for­mer cor­po­rate lawyer progress from a top firm to the French fi­nance min­istry and her cur­rent role as one of the world’s most pow­er­ful women.

It threat­ens the cred­i­bil­ity of the Washington-based IMF, whose last three man­ag­ing di­rec­tors faced trial.

The ac­cu­sa­tions stem from Ms La­garde’s han­dling of a dis­pute with Mr Tapie, a colour­ful busi­ness­man and for­mer min­is­ter who claimed a state bank de­frauded him in its sale of sports­wear gi­ant Adi­das.

Mr Tapie owned Adi­das be­tween 1990 and 1993 but lost con­trol of it af­ter he went bank­rupt. He also owned the Mar­seille foot­ball team.

On be­com­ing fi­nance min­is­ter in 2007 un­der the newly elected pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, Ms La­garde or­dered that Mr Tapie’s lon­grun­ning bat­tle with the state be re­solved by ar­bi­tra­tion.

The de­ci­sion was hugely costly, with Mr Tapie ini­tially walk­ing away with a stag­ger­ing 404 mil­lion eu­ros ($445 mil­lion) in com­pen­sa­tion in 2008. Af­ter a lengthy court bat­tle, he has since been or­dered to re­pay it.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect the ar­bi­tra­tion process was rigged in favour of Mr Tapie, who had sup­ported Mr Sarkozy in his 2007 election cam­paign. –

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