Orange boss Richard detained in Tapie payout case
The boss of telecoms company Orange, Stéphane Richard, has been taken into police custody in the ongoing investigation into alleged abuse of influence that has seen IMF chief Christine Lagarde come close to being prosecuted.
Richard was detained on Monday morning for questioning over his role as the top civil servant working under Lagarde in a deal that saw 403 million euros awarded to businessman and politician Bernard Tapie in 2008.
France’s finance brigade want to know if a decision to go to arbitration was taken under instructions from President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Tapie, a former minister in a Socialist government, supported in his 2007 presidential bid.
They also suspect political pressure may have been behind the officials’ decision not to contest the arbitrators’ decision that the Crédit Lyonnais bank owed Tapie the money for the sale of his former company, Adidas, was taken under political pressure.
Richard has several times denied there was any pressure but the Canard Enchaîné weekly claims that he told its reporters that Claude Guéant, at the time a presidential secretary and later interior minister, passed on an “instruction”.
Jean-François Rocchi, who was at the time the head of the Consortium de réalisation (CDR), which administered Crédit Lyonnais’s assets after its collapse in 1993, has also been detained and Bernard Scemama, had of the body that oversaw the CDR.
One of the judges who sat on the arbitration panel has already been charged with fraud.
Lagarde, who was economy minister at the time, was questioned by investigators in May.
She escaped prosecution but was cited as an “assisted witness”, which means she could be prosecuted at a later date.