FRENCH police searched the Paris apartment of International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde yesterday as part of an investigation into her awarding of a 2008 arbitration payment to a businessman supporter of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, her lawyer said.
Lagarde, who at the time of the payment was Sarkozy’s finance minister, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in ending a judicial battle against billionaire Bernard Tapie and instead opting for arbitration.
The IMF boss was in Frankfurt and not in her Paris flat at the time of the search, a spokesman for Lagarde said.
Investigating magistrates suspect her of complicity in embezzling public funds after she overruled objections from advisers to proceeding with the controversial €285m (£243m) payment to Tapie.
“This search will help uncover the truth, which will contribute to exonerating my client from any criminal wrongdoing,” Lagarde’s lawyer, Yves Repiquet, told Reuters.
The search was conducted a day after France’s budget minister resigned after being targeted in a tax fraud inquiry.
Jerome Cahuzac, a key player in France’s efforts to cut its budget deficit, resigned on Tuesday evening, in a blow to the country’s efforts to win an EU reprieve on its spending targets.
His successor, Bernard Cazeneuve said yesterday he would stick to his predecessor’s efforts to rein in public spending, insisting there would be no policy change.
Socialist President Francois Hollande came to power last May vowing to crack down on the cosy relationships between politicians and businessmen he said were rife under Sarkozy.
City A.M. Reporter