Corruption in France: Sarkozy, Lagarde Complicit in Fraud Scandal
From tech giant Orange to Credit Lyonnais - an intricate web of corruption surfaces in France.
The French telecom giant, Orange, announced that Orange's CEO Stephane Richard is to leave his post by the end of January after being convicted due to his role in a fraud-tainted state payout to tycoon Bernard Tapie; the CEO was given a one-year suspended sentence.
Richard's departure "will be effective once new leadership is in place and no later than January 31," the company said in a statement.
Richard is one of many senior officials to be caught up in a decade-old scandal over $453 million made to Tapie in 2008, when Richard was working in the French Finance Ministry.
This sent shockwaves through France, as citizens started questioning whether the arbitration panel which was placed by then finance minister Christine Lagarde was appointed in favor of Tapie's interests.
A state of corruption
In 2019, the Paris criminal court acquitted Tapie of all his crimes and allegations, along with Richard and three others. Tapie died in October 2021.
However, the appeal court rejected this ruling, dubbing it "fraudulent."
Richard was convicted of complicity in embezzlement of public funds; the judge overseeing the case said he "committed serious offenses in putting the interests of Bernard Tapie above those of the state or the public finances he was tasked with defending," also accusing him of putting the state at a financial disadvantage and bringing France to shame.
Judge's gavel makes a verdict
In 2016, Lagarde was found guilty of negligence, and not fulfilling her ministerial duty when Tapie sold his Adidas stake to French bank Credit Lyonnais, which undervalued the brand. When Lagarde didn't appeal the amount of the award, suspicions arose that Sarkozy, whom Tapie supported for presidency in 2007, had a bias towards businessmen. Sarkozy denied these allegations.
On Wednesday, prison sentences were handed out: Pierre Estoup - one of the three arbitration judges - and Maurice Lantourne, who was Tapie's former lawyer. Lantourne was convicted of corruption, entailing that the arbitration was directed in Tapie's favor.
Estoup was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud, whereas Lantourne was also handed a three-year sentence, including one year in prison and two suspended for embezzlement of public funds.