France Telecom boss quizzed by authorities

THE CHIEF executive of France Telecom was questioned by police in Paris yesterday over a long-running investigation into the possible misuse of public cash.

Stephane Richard was detained in relation to a €400m (£340m) payout to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008, when Richard worked for the French treasury. Tapie, a prominent supporter of ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was awarded the payout after claiming he had been defrauded during his sale of Adidas in 1992. However, France’s socialist opposition said the payout had been inflated to thank Tapie for his support of Sarkozy in 2007’s election.

If Richard – who denies any wrongdoing – is charged over the scandal, he may be forced to step down by France Telecom’s board. The company, which has a 50 per cent stake in UK operator EE, is 27 per cent owned by the French state. The scandal also threatens to delay a float of EE, which was until recently pencilled in for the start of next year.