The Chief Executive of French telecoms company Orange, Stephane Richard, has been charged with fraud.
Richard was in hospital suffering from fatigue when public prosecutor Francois Molins delivered the indictment. It followed two days of questioning by investigating magistrates.
He was involved in an arbitration process which led to a 400 million euro pay-out to a politically connected French businessman Bernard Tapie.
At the time of the alleged offence Richard was chief of staff to the then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
Lagarde, who is currently the head of the International Monetary Fund, is at the centre of the corruption probe centering around her decision to opt for arbitration in a dispute between Tapie and the formerly part-state owned bank Credit Lyonnais.
The dispute was over the bank’s sale of a stake in Adidas, the sporting goods company in which Tapie was previously a major shareholder.
Orange – which recently changed its name from France Telecom – insists Richard’s alleged actions have no bearing on their business conduct.
The situation is made more complicated by the fact that the French state is a major shareholder in Orange. The company said the board will meet in the next few days to discuss Richard’s position as CEO.