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Bernard Tapie in 2013. FRED DUFOUR / AFP

The investigating judges in charge of the investigation into the arbitration in the Crédit Lyonnais affair have decided to refer six people to the court.

There will be a criminal trial on the arbitration which allowed Bernard Tapie to receive 404 million euros in 2008 to settle his dispute with Crédit Lyonnais.

According to information from World, the investigating judges Serge Tournaire and Claire Thépaut decided, after an investigation of more than five years, to refer six people to the criminal court, including the main protagonist, Bernard Tapie, as well as his historical lawyer, Maurice Lantourne , and the former chief of staff of the Minister of the Economy Christine Lagarde, Stéphane Richard, today Chairman and CEO of Orange. A decision in accordance with the requisitions of the Paris prosecutor's office.

Also included among those dismissed, the magistrate Pierre Estoup, who was one of the three referees in the case, the former director of the Consortium for realization (CDR) Jean-François Rocchi and finally Bernard Scemama, the former president of the Public Finance and Restructuring Establishment (EFPR), the other entity then responsible, with the CDR, for managing the debts of Crédit Lyonnais. All are dismissed for fraud and embezzlement of public funds as perpetrators or accomplices; offenses punishable by ten years in prison. Claude Guéant, who had been placed under the status of assisted witness during the investigation, is not sent back to court.

This is a new step in this case with many twists and turns which finds its origin in the sale, in 1993, of Adidas by Bernard Tapie to Crédit Lyonnais for just over 2 billion francs (the equivalent of 318 million euros). The businessman has always claimed that he had been wronged by the bank which had sold the Adidas company two years later to the industrialist Robert Louis-Dreyfus for 4,65 billion francs (670 million euros) . For Mr. Tapie, Crédit Lyonnais had already entered into negotiations with the industrialist when it bought the three-stripe brand from him, without his knowledge. A thesis since denied by the police investigations carried out as part of the criminal investigation.

It was thanks to this conflict that Bernard Tapie first obtained a favorable decision in 2005, which was finally canceled by the Court of Cassation. The two parties then decided to resort to private justice through the arbitration procedure, a procedure which made it possible to grant 404 million euros to Mr. Tapie, in July 2008. But the criminal investigation ended. attached to dissect this decision, and justice arrived at the conviction that she had not been chosen to defend the interests of the State.

By deciding to refer to the court six people who had contributed to setting up this procedure, the magistrates therefore considered, as appeared during their investigation, that the arbitration was in fact only a sham biased in favor by Bernard Tapie. Their investigations shed particular light on the relationship between Pierre Estoup, one of the arbitrators, and Maurice Lantourne, who had worked together on several cases in the past.

The return of public money in question

The investigation also made it possible to question the role of Nicolas Sarkozy, who received Bernard Tapie on numerous occasions, as evidenced by his diaries seized by the courts, but never wished to explain himself within the framework of the procedure, arguing of his presidential immunity. Mr. Sarkozy had also had to know the dispute between Mr. Tapie and Crédit Lyonnais before his accession to the Elysée, when he was Minister of the Economy, in 2004. Mr. Tapie had for his part supported Nicolas Sarkozy during the 2007 presidential election.

Still, the state services, under the mandate of Nicolas Sarkozy, have shown a fierce desire to support the arbitration solution and resolve the dispute between Crédit Lyonnais and Bernard Tapie. And this, despite unfavorable opinions from the administration.

Mr. Sarkozy's economy minister, current director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has since was condemned by the Court of Justice of the Republic for having acted with negligence, by getting personally involved in this case, notably ignoring the unfavorable opinion of the State Participation Agency (the APE).

As for the public money received by Mr. Tapie, he was ordered to return it. On February 17, 2015, the Paris Court of Appeal found that the arbitration award pronounced in favor of Mr. Tapie was vitiated by " fraud " and had ordered the revocation of the arbitration judgment.

A decision validated in June 2016 by the Court of Cassation, which then specified that"a sum which has been paid in execution of a court decision or an arbitration award which has subsequently been retracted must be returned". It remains to be clarified how and in what time frame, while the Paris prosecutor's office has appealed a decision of the commercial court authorizing Mr. Tapie to spread the repayment of his debt over six years.

Source: © Arbitration in the Crédit Lyonnais case: Tapie referred to the criminal court


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