The Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, is facing a special tribunal on “negligence charges” for her role in the massive payout to the businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.
The case should reach a verdict by December 20.
Lagarde served as the finance minister of former President Nicolas Sarkozy. At the time, she approved an out-of-court settlement with businessman Bernard Tapie. The “negligence” allegedly cost the French state €400 million. Unfortunately, Tapie was also a major funder of Sarkozy’s 2007 Presidential campaign.
If found guilty, Lagarde faces a year in prison and a €15,000 fine.
In 1993 Tapie was appointed minister and was forced to sell his company (Adidas) to avoid conflict of interest. The company was bought by a state-owned bank, Crédit Lyonnais, which sold the company one year later for a 100% premium. Tapie went to Court feeling he was entitled to that premium.
The court’s awarded him with €100 million, but Lagarde approved an out-of-court settlement that granted him four times that amount. Apparently, courts found that this was an inside “fraud” case. In 2013, Tapie was accused of conspiring with one of the arbitrators and Lagarde’s chief of staff to defraud the state. In 2015, the businessman was forced to return the money he was awarded.
The tribunal is not accusing Lagarde of being a co-conspirator, but that she was ill-informed and negligent.
Lagarde, 60, argues she is the victim of a witch hunt.
Lagarde is to be tried by the Court of Justice of the Republic, which puts on trial former members of the cabinet. That is merely the fifth tribunal of its kind. It is made by a 15-member panel, of which 12 are legislators (6 Senate, 6 National Assembly). That is a Court in which politicians put on trial politicians.
At this point, one may choose to speculate whether the special tribunal shows special empathy or special spite.
And the political consequences of a conviction would be that every controversial decision could lead to Court. Moreover, it would also mean Lagarde would need to resign from her post. That would be the second French official to quit that job after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who faced allegations of sexual assault in 2011.