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IMF chief Lagarde faces trial over Tapie affair

A French court has ordered the head of the International Monetary Fund to face trial over her role in a compensation payout to a French tycoon in 2008. Her lawyer was not amused.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde was ordered Thursday to stand trial in France over her role in a 2008 arbitration ruling that handed 400 million euros ($434 million) to French businessman Bernard Tapie.

Lagarde had been

charged with negligence

in the case that unfolded after a dispute with the Credit Lyonnais bank over the sale of sportswear giant Adidas.

Tapie was ordered to pay back the money at the beginning of this month. When the payout was made, Lagarde was French finance minister.

IMF support

She had frequently denied any wrongdoing, and after years of investigation, France's main prosecutor recommended in September that magistrates drop their probe into Lagarde.

Watch video 01:01

Flashback: Lagarde faces tough questions (2013)

This is why Thursday's decision of the Cour de justice de la Republique in Paris came as a surprise to many, including Lagarde's lawyer.

"The decision is incomprehensible," lawyer Yves Repiquet said on French TV channel iTele. "I will recommend Mrs Lagarde appeal this decision."

Lagarde herself has meanwhile confirmed she will fight the court order. IMF officials expressed confidence in their chief, saying they had no doubt she would continue to carry out her duties effectively.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Thursday the court's decision should not prevent Lagarde from doing her job.

"She's innocent until proven guilty, so I don't see how this should prevent her from carrying out her current duties," Sapin told reporters while in New York.

hg/nz (Reuters, AFP)

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