Le Monde reports on new documents that may prove costly for French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. The documents suggest Lagarde may have known that members of an arbitration panel involved in state dispute with a French tycoon were biased.
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French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde may face a new round of ethics woes that could risk undermining her candidacy to become the next chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A special court that tries serving ministers is expected to decide by July 8 whether to launch an official probe or dismiss the case. The court maneuverings follows accusations that Lagarde overstepped her authority in a case involving the French state's dispute with a flamboyant business tycoon. Lagarde denies wrongdoing, and has forged ahead with her global campaign to take over as IMF managing director after the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who faces charges of attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York.
Le Monde is in possession of documents citing two experts who say they informed Lagarde as early as the autumn of 2008 about their doubts concerning the impartiality of one of the members of an arbitration panel in the French government's long-running dispute with Parisian businessman Bernard Tapie. In 2007, Lagarde referred the case to an arbitration panel instead of allowing the case to continue through the courts. A year later, the panel ruled in favor of Tapie, who was awarded 345 million euros in damages plus interest and other fines.
Le Monde also reports that the Office of the Public Prosecutor has announced that a preliminary inquiry will probe one of the members of the panel for alleged "abuse of social power."
Lagarde has repeatedly said that the arbitration panel was the best chance for the French state to not incur further costs in the case. Until now, IMF member countries who must vote by the end of June for Strauss-Kahn's successor have not raised the French ethics probes as a stumbling block for Lagarde's candidacy.
Read the full article in French.
Photo - World Economic Forum