News Column

French Court Will Keep Questioning Lagarde

May 23, 2013

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde is to face a second day of questioning on Friday in a French court over her role in a large payout to a businessman in 2008, when she was France's finance minister.

Lagarde is suspected of arranging arbitration that led to a compensation payment of more than 285 million euros (369 million dollars) to Bernard Tapie. Including interest, the final sum was reportedly 400 million euros.

After a full 12 hours of interrogation on Thursday, the IMF chief said that the court session would be continued the next day. The court did not issue an official statement.

Tapie, who had been principal owner of Adidas, claimed he had been defrauded by the state-owned Credit Lyonnais bank when it arranged the sale of the sporting goods maker in 1992.

Prosecutors suspect Lagarde of embezzling public funds because the money involved in settling the dispute came from the state treasury. They say she should not have allowed the settlement to come about and that she should have challenged the decision after it was made.

Lagarde, who served as finance minister from 2007 to 2011, denies the allegations. Tapie was a major backer of Nicolas Sarkozy in his 2007 presidential election campaign.

In Washington, the IMF board of directors backed Lagarde through the court proceedings. Her term is set to end in 2016.

"The executive board has been briefed on this matter, including recently, and continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters in Washington.

Asked for reaction by broadcaster BFMTV, French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem noted that Lagarde is no longer a minister. She said the government was not involved in the case and would let the courts do their work.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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