PARIS May 18 France's highest court ordered
tycoon Bernard Tapie to repay 404 million euros ($449 million)
to the state on Thursday in what looked like the end, for him,
of a decades-old French legal battle that still reverberates
through business and political life.
Earlier this year, IMF chief Christine Lagarde was found
guilty of negligence in regard to one of France's best known
"affaires," and in March, the Paris prosecutor recommended that
the head of telecoms group Orange, Stephane Richard, should
stand trial for fraud in connection with it.
Tapie's lawyer said he would take the case against his
client to the European courts.
The case dates back to when Tapie sued for compensation
after the sale of his stake in sports company Adidas to then
state-owned Credit Lyonnais bank in 1993.
He accused the bank of defrauding him after it resold the
holding for a much higher price.
With the case stuck in the courts, the two sides agreed to a
private settlement, and in 2008 Tapie was awarded a 404 million
The litigation continued, however, and in December 2015, a
French court ruled that Tapie should return this compensation.
It was this ruling that France's supreme court confirmed in
a judgement on Thursday.
Lagarde was French finance minister at the time of the
payout to Tapie, and at a hearing in December last year, a
French court ruled that her failure to contest the award to
Tapie was negligent.
The court was a special one which exists to try ministers
and former ministers. It gave her no punishment.
Orange chief executive Richard was Lagarde's chief of staff
in 2008. He declined to take the witness stand during Lagarde's
trial on the advice of his lawyer.
In March, the Paris prosecutor said he wanted Richard to
stand trial for fraud misuse of public funds.
The prosecutor's request was made to an investigating
magistrate who will decide whether to go ahead with a trial.
Richard has denied wrongdoing. In March, a spokesman for his
company said "the accusations raised against him are totally
($1 = 0.9004 euros)
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Richard Balmforth;
Editing by Andrew Callus)