Sunday 18 August 2019

IMF's Lagarde tells trial she 'acted in the public interest'

Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde

Gaspard Sebag in Paris

On the final day of her trial on decade-old negligence charges, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde told a Paris court she acted in the public interest as she faced charges over her handling of a multi-million euro dispute during her time as France's finance minister.

Ms Lagarde told the Court de Justice de la République that she carefully weighed the pros and cons before making her decisions. Court president Martine Ract-Madoux said the verdict would be issued on Monday.

The trial has been an ongoing distraction to Ms Lagarde's duties at the IMF. The institution was on the front lines of the effort to combat the global financial crisis and provides billions of dollars in loans to countries at risk of default.

"In this case, as in all others, I acted in trust and with knowledge of the facts with the sole goal of defending the general interest," Ms Lagarde said as she took to the stand to make her final remarks.

The IMF chief is accused of not doing enough to prevent a massive government payout to businessman Bernard Tapie.

The case stems from former state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais's disagreement with Mr Tapie over the 1993 sale of Adidas AG, which he owned. She is accused of not being diligent when she gave her green light in 2007 to an arbitration procedure and didn't seek to overturn its subsequent decision to give Tapie an initial award of €285m that led to a massive government payout.

If convicted of negligence, Ms Lagarde faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of €15,000.

Yesterday, the French prosecutor called on the court to dismiss the "weak" negligence charges against the 60-year-old IMF chief.

"Lagarde has been accused of things that don't relate to criminal law, but have to do simply with politics," Jean-Claude Marin said.

In France, it isn't entirely unusual for prosecutors to disagree with an indictment written by investigative magistrates.

A French prosecutor urged judges in 2015 to clear Ms Lagarde's predecessor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on charges of aggravated pimping after two weeks of hearings. Mr Strauss-Kahn was eventually acquitted.

Irish Independent

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