News / Europe

IMF's Lagarde Appears in Court for French Arbitration Case

IMF chief Christine Lagarde (L) arrives to be questioned by a French magistrate in Paris, May 23, 2013.IMF chief Christine Lagarde (L) arrives to be questioned by a French magistrate in Paris, May 23, 2013.
x
IMF chief Christine Lagarde (L) arrives to be questioned by a French magistrate in Paris, May 23, 2013.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde (L) arrives to be questioned by a French magistrate in Paris, May 23, 2013.
Reuters
— IMF chief Christine Lagarde was questioned in court by a French magistrate on Thursday over her role in a 285-million-euro [$366 million] arbitration payment made to a supporter of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Lagarde risks being placed under formal investigation at the hearing for her 2007 decision as Sarkozy's finance minister to use arbitration to settle a long-running court battle between the state and high-profile businessman Bernard Tapie.

Under French law, that step would mean there exists “serious or consistent evidence” pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime. It is one step closer to trial, but a number of such investigations have been dropped without any trial.

Such a move could prove uncomfortable for the International Monetary Fund, whose former head, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quit in 2011 over a sex assault scandal, and for a woman rated the most influential in France by Slate magazine.

“It's a pleasure to see you,” a smiling Lagarde said to reporters as arrived at the Paris court with her lawyer for a hearing that could last into Friday.

They were not expected to emerge until the end of the day's proceedings, which could run into late evening. The decision on whether to place her under investigation or give her “supervised witness” status will be announced at the end of the hearing.

The case goes back to 1993 when Tapie, a colorful and often controversial character in the French business and sports world, sued the state for compensation after selling his stake in sports company Adidas to then state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.

Also a one-time Socialist minister who later supported the conservative Sarkozy, Tapie said the bank defrauded him after it resold the stake for a much higher sum. Credit Lyonnais, now part of Credit Agricole, has denied wrongdoing.

Lagarde is not accused of financially profiting herself from the payout and has denied doing anything wrong by opting for an arbitration process that enriched Tapie. With interest, the award amounted to 403 million euros.

A court specializing in cases involving ministers is targeting her for complicity in the misuse of funds, however, because she overruled advisers to seek the settlement.

Her lawyer, Yves Repiquet, told French media that Lagarde had merely approved the use of an arbitration procedure that had been decided by the state-owned holding company, Consortium de Realization, set up to take over the debts and liabilities of Credit Lyonnais when it fell into difficulty in the early 1990s.

Tapie unruffled

Sources close to the IMF board have said they are not worried by the affair and are confident Lagarde herself did not profit from it. But they added the board might review its position if judicial procedures took her away from her duties.

Tapie said on Thursday he was “delighted” the affair was being investigated. While earlier probes had found his settlement to be perfectly legal, further examination would show how justified he had been in seeking compensation, he said.

“If there had been anything untoward in the arbitration it would have come out a long time ago,” he told Europe 1 radio, adding: “None of these legal cases are to see if I am dishonest, they are to find out how much I was robbed of.”

Lagarde, tasked with moving the IMF past the Strauss-Kahn scandal, has made her mark at the Fund by taking a firm yet pragmatic stance in the austerity-versus-growth debate raging as Europe struggles to pull itself out of a long crisis.

Appointed in part for the negotiating skills she used in brokering Europe's response to the 2008-09 global financial crisis, she has shown firmness at the IMF in insisting on the need for nations to stick to budgetary rigor when possible.

Current Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told Le Monde newspaper that Lagarde retained the support of the French government, but said that it would appeal against the arbitration award if she was placed under formal investigation.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid