France: Police Question Tapie in Fraud Investigation
French police are investigating whether a €285 million financial award granted to business tycoon Bernard Tapie to settle a commercial dispute with the state stemmed from political influence, Reuters reports.
Tapie claimed the bank Credit Lyonnais defrauded him in 1993. The bank allegedly purchased Tapie’s interest in Adidas sport clothing company for €315.5 million, and proceeded to resell the next year for a whopping €701 million.
Police are investigating the government’s decision to turn to a private arbitration in 2007 to settle the Tapie-Credit Lyonnais dispute.
Tapie was awarded €403 million, including interest, when the arbitration went in his favor. The relationship between Tapie and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s inner circle is being questioned. The socialist opposition at the time claimed that the award was used to thank Tapie for supporting Sarkozy in the 2007 election, the Financial Times reports.
The fraud investigation poses a threat to Sarkozy’s potential political comeback, who already faces two other scandals. Sarkozy and Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief and finance minister on Sarkozy’s cabinet, have denied any wrongdoing.
Tapie, who suddenly switched from socialist party minister to the right by backing Sarkozy, also claims he has nothing to hide. “I’m not worried about the merits of the case,” Tapie told Reuters.
Tapie could be held in police custody for up to 96 hours for questioning before the judges decide whether to put him under formal investigation.