"IMF chief Lagarde to appeal French trial decision" by Philippe Sotto Associated Press December 18, 2015
PARIS — International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has been ordered to stand trial in France over her role in a 2008 arbitration ruling that handed $434 million to a French business magnate.
Lagarde, who was French finance minister at the time, denied wrongdoing in a statement Thursday and said she had ordered her lawyers to appeal the decision. She said she had acted ‘‘in the best interest of the French state and in full compliance with the law.’’
Lagarde has maintained her innocence since the investigation began in 2011.
After years of investigation, a prosecutor in September argued that the case against her should be dropped. But the Court of Justice of the Republic on Thursday decided that she should go to trial for ‘‘negligence,’’ according to a spokesman at the court, Sylvain Barbier-Sainte-Marie.
‘‘Negligence’’ by a person invested with public authority carries a risk of up to a year in prison and a $16,000 fine, according to the French Penal Code cited by Barbier-Sainte-Marie. The Court of Justice of the Republic tries government ministers for alleged wrongdoing while in office.
The money in question was paid to businessman Bernard Tapie from public funds.
Lagarde’s lawyers have five days after the formal notification of the decision to lodge an appeal. ‘‘It’s incomprehensible,’’ her lawyer, Yves Repiquet, told i-Tele television.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, in New York for a Security Council meeting, stressed that Lagarde ‘‘is presumed innocent’’ and should remain in her job.
The probe began before Lagarde became IMF chief in 2011. She took over from Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who left under sexual assault allegations.
The executive board of the IMF has supported Lagarde. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement the board ‘‘continues to express its confidence in the managing director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.’’ The IMF would not comment on the case.
The investigation centers on Tapie, a flamboyant magnate and TV star, who had sued French bank Credit Lyonnais for its handling of the sale of his majority stake in sportswear company Adidas in the mid-1990s. With Lagarde’s approval, a private arbitration panel ruled that he should get $434 million in compensation, including interest.
The deal was seen by critics as a sign of that the relationships between magnates and the French political elite were too intimate. Tapie was close to then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, Lagarde’s boss.
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