PARIS Dec 12 International Monetary Fund chief
Christine Lagarde went on trial in Paris on Monday over her role
in a 400 million euro ($424 million) payout of French taxpayer
money to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.
Lagarde, 60, was France's finance minister in the government
of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy when she approved an
out-of-court settlement with Tapie to end a long-running dispute
between the magnate and the French state.
Accused of negligence leading to misuse of public funds, she
who denies any wrongdoing. She risks up to a year in jail and a
fine of 15,000 euros ($15,895) if convicted.
Were it to happen, a maximum sentence could raise questions
about the widely respected policymaker's ability to continue as
head of the Washington-based IMF, where her predecessor France's
Dominique Strauss Kahn, quit in 2011 over a sex assault scandal.
On the eve of Monday's trial opening, Lagarde told France 2
public television she was confident and she denied favouring
Tapie or having acted on Sarkozy's orders.
"Negligence is a non-intentional offence. I think we are all
a bit negligent sometimes in our life. I have done my job as
well as I could, within the limits of what I knew," she said.
Investigators have said that Lagarde's behaviour in the case
when beyond simple carelessness.
Her trial is only the fifth to be held before the Cour de
Justice de la Republique, a special tribunal created in 1993 to
try cabinet ministers.
A panel of 15, including 12 lawmakers from both the lower
and upper houses of parliament, will hear the case, which is
scheduled to run until Dec. 20.
They are expected to focus on correspondence between Lagarde
and her staff as well as the government body that manages state
corporate holdings, which advised against private arbitration.
The case dates back to a time when Tapie sued the state for
compensation after selling his stake in sports company Adidas to
then state-owned Credit Lyonnais in 1993.
He accused the bank of defrauding him after it resold its
stake for a much higher price. With case stuck in the courts,
the two sides agreed to private settlement and Tapie was awarded
in 2008 a 403 million euro payout, including interest.
($1 = 0.9438 euros)
(Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by