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Prosecutors seize Tapie assets in Lagarde-linked fraud investigation

Bernard Tapie
Bernard Tapie Reuters

French corruption investigators have seized assets worth millions from Bernard Tapie in the ongoing inquiry into alleged organised fraud under former president Nicolas Sarkozy. They have revealed the vast wealth of the tycoon, who bounced back from bankruptcy thanks to the award in question.

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Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said Wednesday’s asset seizure aimed to ensure that the funds were available if the state and other plaintiffs win their bid for compensation for the allegedly fraudulent award of 403 million euros to Tapie in 2008.

Prosecutors consider Tapie the principal beneficiary of the deal, which has led to IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who was finance minister at the time, being questioned and Orange boss Stéphan Richard being charged.

According to Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story, investigators have seized:

  • Two life insurance policies belonging to Tapie and his wife, Dominique - estimated worth 20,780,272.66 euros;
  • A villa La Mandala, in Saint-Tropez – bought for 48 million euros;
  • Tapie’s share in a Paris mansion – worth 69.3 million euros.

They have also asked whether they should seize:

  • Tapie’s shares in the Hersant Media publishing group and the papers La Provence and Nice-Matin;
  • Six bank accounts;
  • A 180-million-euro life insurance policy in the name of the holding company Groupe Bernard Tapie.

As well as Tapie, four people were taken in for questioning on Wednesday on charges of “fraud by an organised gang” – former judge Pierre Estoup, Orange chief executive Stéphane Richard, civil servant Jean-François Rocchi and lawyer Maurice Lantourne.

Although Tapie claims to have pocketed "only" 70 million euros from the award, magistrates believe he made a gain of 278 million euros.

Financial police have told magistrates that the insurance policies, then worth 45 million euros, were bought with the proceeds, along with several other properties:

  • A 320-square-metre flat in the Paris suburb of Anières-sur-Seine worth 1,335,000 euros, given to their son, Stéphane, in 2008;
  • A flat in Marseille worth 270,000 euros;
  • A 213-square-metre flat with sauna and garden in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, now occupied by their daughter, Sophie, worth 2,650,000 euros;
  • A house in Neuilly-sur-Seine worth 15,200,000 euros.

According to Le Monde, Tapie, who was declared bankrupt in 1995, also owns:

  • A home in Combs-la-Ville, east of Paris;
  • A yacht, Reborn, worth 40 million euros, which can be rented for 500,000 euros a week;
  • A Range Rover, a Smart car and a private plane, currently for sale for 15 million euros.

Tapie and his wife own 15 bank accounts and the businessman says he lives on dividends of 25,000 euros a month and paid two million euros in wealth tax in 2012.

Moscovici denied that the real target of the investigation is Nicolas Sarkozy, who was president at the time of the award and who Tapie, a former minister in a Socialist government, supported in the 2007 and 2012 elections.

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