Orange boss questioned over Tapie-Lagarde case

Orange boss questioned over Tapie-Lagarde case
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Stephane Richard, the chief executive of French telecoms firm Orange has been questioned over an arbitration process that led to a large pay-out to politically connected businessman Bernard Tapie.

Richard – who has denied any wrongdoing – was interviewed about his actions when he was a top aide to Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister at the time.

She is at the centre of a corruption probe focused on her decision to chose arbitration to end a dispute involving former part state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.

The dispute was over its sale of a stake in the Adidas sporting goods company that Tapie previously owned.

Tapie – a close friend of then President Nicolas Sarkozy – received a total of 400 million euros in damages and interest as compensation following the 2008 arbitration process.

Orange, which has recently changed its name from France Telecom, declined to comment on the questioning of its boss.

The corruption probe has put Richard, whose contract at the state-backed company is up for renewal next year, in a delicate position with the government, which owns 27 percent of the group and chooses its chief executive.

The current Socialist government which replaced Sarkozy’s has not yet replaced any of the bosses of the major state-owned companies.

“The state in its role as a shareholder will take a position if needed at the right time on the continuing case,” Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said in a statement.

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