• France's news in English

French judge in Tapie case probed for fraud

AFP/The Local · 30 May 2013, 08:31

Published: 30 May 2013 08:31 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The judge in a corruption case linked to IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been placed under formal investigation for fraud, French prosecutors said Wednesday.

Magistrate Pierre Estoup was detained on Monday by investigators probing a massive state payout to a disgraced tycoon in 2008, when Lagarde was finance minister.

The International Monetary Fund chief was questioned for two days last week about the 400-million-euro ($515-million) payout to controversial business figure Bernard Tapie, but she avoided charges and was instead named an "assisted witness".

Estoup was one of the three judges who presided over the arbitration panel that granted the payment to Tapie, which followed a dispute between the businessman and partly state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over his 1993 sale of sports group Adidas.

The panel upheld his claim that Credit Lyonnais had defrauded him by intentionally undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale and that the state, as the bank's principal shareholder, should compensate him.

On Wednesday, prosecutors placed Estoup, 86, who formerly presided over the Versailles appeals court, under formal investigation for fraud as part of an organised group.

The placing of Estoup under formal investigation, a step before filing formal charges, shows prosecutors suspect he, along with others, gave Tapie favourable treatment, said a source close to the probe.

Investigators have also been probing whether Tapie was favoured in return for having supported ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, Lagarde's then boss, in the 2007 presidential election.

Lagarde has come under fire for accepting to settle the dispute by arbitration when the French state was not obliged to do so.

The French government is now looking at how it can recover the funds.

A ministerial source said Wednesday that the French state  would formally become a civil party in the case to "ensure that the economic interests of the state are not adversely affected" and that it had access to all the relevant dossiers.

The IMF's executive board on Tuesday reiterated its confidence in Lagarde.

Tapie himself told AFP he thought the investigation was "incomprehensible". He added that it was "even more incomprehensible" that his lawyer had been
placed under investigation.

Bettencourt scandal

Story continues below…

Just hours after it emerged Estoup had been placed under formal investigation Le Parisien revealed that a high profile judge investigating the party funding scandal involving l'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt may also have acted inappropriately.

The case took a dramatic turn earlier this year when former President Nicolas Sarkozy was charged with taking financial advantage of Bettencourt when she was weakened by poor health.

However Le Parisien alleged on Thursday that Jean-Michel Gentil, the judge in charge of the case, chose the best friend of his wife as one of the expert doctors nominated to assess the state of Bettencourt's mental and physical health.

The judge has not responded to the allegations.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available