PARIS: French police questioned flamboyant tycoon Bernard Tapie yesterday in a fraud investigation that threatens to damage ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s hopes of a political comeback.
Tapie, a member of France’s business and sporting elite, says he has nothing to hide in the affair which has embroiled members of Sarkozy’s cabinet, including IMF chief Christine Lagarde, his former finance minister.
While both Sarkozy and Lagarde deny wrongdoing, the case is one more legal headache for the former president whose supporters would like to see run for the top job again to rescue his divided conservative party. The investigation is into whether a ¤285m ($374m) financial award that Tapie won in 2008 was a result of political influence.
“I’m not worried about the merits of the case,” said 70-year-old Tapie, who served as a minister in Socialist President Francois Mitterrand’s government in the 1980s, but moved to the right and backed Sarkozy at the 2007 election. “I’m wondering what they could possibly find,” he told Europe 1 radio shortly before being taken in for questioning by police specialised in financial crime.
Tapie alleged that the now-defunct bank Credit Lyonnais defrauded him by purchasing his interest in sports clothing company Adidas in 1993 for ¤315.5m only to sell it a year later for ¤701m. Reuters