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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora