Posted on Nov 25, 2021 2:30 PM
In the shadow of French capitalism for thirty years, the Tapie affair is a politico-financial kraken from which, sometimes, a tentacle surfaces and splashes one of its protagonists. This time, Stéphane Richard. The CEO of Orange, at the head of the telecoms operator since 2011, could seem far from all this to the general public, as we have seen him active in recent years: transformation of France Telecom, deployment of fiber and 4G, expansion in Africa …
But during this time, the slow and relentless work of justice was doing its work. The Paris Court of Appeal sentenced him to a one-year suspended sentence for his role in the Tapie arbitration. What is this part of the case and what did Stéphane Richard do? Explanations.
1. What led to the arbitration?
You have to go back to the beginning of the Tapie affair to understand. In 1993, Bernard Tapie had to sell Adidas to accept the post of Minister of the City proposed by François Mitterrand. The purchaser is Robert Louis-Dreyfus. The mandated bank, Crédit Lyonnais – then a public bank.
Become heavily indebted in 1994, Bernard Tapie discovers that the bank would have carried out an opaque assembly allowing one of its subsidiaries to garner 400 million euros. The businessman, who claims his due, the attack in 1995. More precisely, he assigns the CDR (the Consortium of realization), a structure set up by the State in order to try to save the bank, it – even very heavily in debt.
2. What is this arbitration?
In 2005, Bernard Tapie believes he will win with a judgment in his favor by the Paris Court of Appeal, which condemns the CDR to pay him 135 million euros in damages. But in 2006, the Court of Cassation quashed the judgment and referred the whole thing to appeal. This is where the businessman offers a mediation that we rarely see: the intervention of an arbitral tribunal, private, made up of three independent judges. Christine Lagarde, then Minister of the Economy, gives her blank check. Turnaround in 2008: the arbitral tribunal condemns the state to pay 403 million euros to Bernard Tapie.
The affair turns into a political scandal, because now the state itself – the CDR is a public establishment – owes several hundred million to the former owner of Adidas. Why did Christine Lagarde allow justice to go out of its way, relying on a private decision, and did she allow such a situation?
Everything changes in 2011: the Court of Justice of the Republic opens an investigation against the minister (she will be condemned for “negligence” in 2016) and “Mediapart” reveals close links between Bernard Tapie and Pierre Estoup, one of the three judges of the arbitral tribunal, whose independence is then called into question. In 2012, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a judicial investigation for “misuse of social powers and concealment of this offense”. In 2015, the Paris Court of Appeal canceled the arbitration. Bernard Tapie must repay the 403 million. If the Minister of the Economy is at the center of the decision, another name quickly appears, that of his chief of staff, Stéphane Richard.
3. What was Stéphane Richard’s role?
Stéphane Richard himself recalled his position at the end of the court on Wednesday: “I only executed the ministerial decision to go to arbitration, which was fully assumed by Christine Lagarde. “Indicted in 2013 for” complicity in fraud “, he was released in 2019, the Court distinguishing” those who did not know that the arbitration was fraudulent “. Even if the former “dircab” was at the end of the decision-making chain – which makes some people say that he served as a “fuse” for Christine Lagarde – his criminal responsibility was engaged.
Did Stéphane Richard hide “essential factual elements” and dismiss the unfavorable opinions of the State Participation Agency? This is what the prosecution argued in 2019. A meeting in July 2007 at the Elysée between Stéphane Richard, Claude Guéant, secretary general, François Pérol, deputy secretary, Jean-François Rocchi, director of the CDR, and Bernard Tapie , would have sealed the arbitration, the minister not being informed until August 11.
According to the magistrates, the ex-dircab of Christine Lagarde “betrayed” his confidence. In doing so, he “contributed to the weakening of the authority of the State” because “his conduct was decisive” in the refusal of Bercy, at the time, to appeal the arbitration decision that good. many were already criticizing. According to the Court, his action cannot be “simple negligence against the interests he should have defended”. Sentenced to one year in prison and a 50,000 euro fine for complicity in the misappropriation of public property, Stéphane Richard announced his appeal in cassation.