Crime

Former French minister, business tycoon attacked during burglary

Bernard Tapie arriving at the Paris court, 11 March, 2019.
Bernard Tapie arriving at the Paris court, 11 March, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Former French minister and scandal-ridden tycoon Bernard Tapie, once the owner of Adidas, was attacked along with his wife during a midnight burglary of their home, police said Sunday.

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The couple were asleep when four men broke into the house in Combs-la-Ville near Paris just after midnight on Saturday, beat them and tied them up with electrical cords before making off with their loot.

Dominique Tapie managed to free herself and made her way to a neighbour's home, from where she called the police. Slightly injured from several blows to the face, she was taken to hospital for a check-up.

During the burglary the perpetrators "pulled her by the hair because they wanted to know where the treasure was", the mayor of Combs-La-Ville, Guy Geoffroy, told AFP. "But of course there was no treasure, and the fact that they didn't find one made the violence only worse."

Tapie himself, who is 78, received a blow to the head with a club, prosecutor Beatrice Angelelli told AFP, but he declined to be taken into medial care.

The burglars broke into Tapie's home, a vast estate known as the "Moulin de Breuil", through a first-floor window, undetected by the guards.

They made off with two watches, including a Rolex, earrings, bracelets and a ring, according to a source close to the investigation.

Colourful history

Tapie was a Socialist minister, briefly minister for urban affairs in Francois Mitterrand's government in 1992.

He made a fortune in the early part of his career by taking over failing companies in corporate raids, stripping them of their assets and selling them for profit during the high-rolling years of financial deregulation in France.

Tapie was found guilty in a series of cases for corruption, tax fraud and misuse of corporate assets, went to prison for five months and was stripped of the right to stand in any election in France.

One fraud case has dogged Tapie for decades, involving a hugely controversial settlement worth 400 million euros awarded to him by a government arbitration panel, a case which sent shockwaves through France.

The panel judged he had been the victim of fraud when he sold his stake in the Adidas sports apparel company in 1993 to state-run French bank Credit Lyonnais, which was found to have undervalued the sportswear brand.

The case also ensnared then-finance minister Christine Lagarde, who now runs the European Central Bank. She was found guilty of "negligence".

Lagarde's handling of the case sparked suspicion that her former boss Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Tapie had backed for president in 2007, was favourably disposed towards the businessman -- allegations Sarkozy has vehemently denied.

Last autumn, Tapie's fraud trial was postponed for reasons of ill health because he was suffering a double stomach cancer and cancer of the oesophagus which were getting worse.

The trial is due to resume in May, with Tapie "determined" to be present, according to his lawyer.

(with newswires)   

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