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Bernard Tapie: Scandal-ridden French tycoon and ex-minister dies aged 78

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By Euronews  with AFP
Bernard Tapie at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, May 26, 2013.
Bernard Tapie at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, May 26, 2013.   -   Copyright  GERARD JULIEN/ AFP

The former French minister and tycoon Bernard Tapie has died from cancer at the age of 78, his family have told the press group La Provence, which he owned.

Briefly a socialist minister under President Mitterand in the early 1990s, he built a sporting and media empire but was known for a string of scandals and legal problems.

As owner of the football club Olympique de Marseille he enjoyed success when the club won the French championship and later the Champions League in 1993. But soon after, allegations of match fixing emerged, with Tapie at the centre of suspicions.

The flamboyant businessman went to prison for six months after being convicted in 1995 for corruption, tax fraud and misuse of corporate assets. He was also banned from running for public office.

However, Tapie was renowned for his resilience and retained affection among many French people.

His time in jail was followed by a period spent writing and acting; his fearlessness in taking on challenges was evident earlier when as a newly-elected MP in 1989, he put in a combative performance in a TV debate with a boisterous far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

A long-running fraud case involved a €400 million settlement awarded to Tapie by a government panel over the sale of his stake in Adidas to the bank Credit Lyonnais. The then finance minister Christine Lagarde became caught up in the case, being found guilty of negligence.

In 2017 Tapie was ordered by a court to pay back the money but won an appeal two years later.

Earlier this year a fraud trial was halted because of his ill health.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex paid tribute to Bernard Tapie on Sunday, describing him as a "fighter, for his ideas, his convictions" and someone who was "always very committed against the far right".