Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Lagarde's trial in France has no implications for Jamaica's programme with IMF - Phillips

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips yesterday said the announcement by French authorities that International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde is to stand trial in France over her role in a 2008 arbitration ruling that handed €400 million to a French business magnate has no bearing on the credibility of Jamaica's programme with the Fund.

Phillips told The Gleaner that the intricacies of the French judicial system are many, and stressed that this latest development had no link to Lagarde's responsibilities with the IMF.

"In fact, the events preceded, by a long way, her incumbency at the IMF. It has no bearing here, nor is the matter a settled issue," the finance minister argued.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Lagarde has been ordered by the French authorities to stand trial over her role in the compensation award to the businessman.

In a swift response, IMF Communications Director Gerry Rice told the Associated Press: "As we have said before, it would not be appropriate to comment on a case that has been and is currently before the French judiciary. However, the [IMF] Executive Board continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties. The board will continue to be briefed on this matter."

Lagarde, who was French finance minister at the time, denied wrongdoing in a statement yesterday and said she had ordered her lawyers to appeal the decision, adding that she had acted "in the best interest of the French state and in full compliance with the law".

Lagarde has maintained her innocence since the investigation began in 2011.

After years of investigation, a prosecutor in September argued that the case against her should be dropped. But the Court of Justice of the Republic yesterday decided that she should go to trial for "negligence", according to a spokesman at the court, Sylvain Barbier-Sainte-Marie.

"Negligence" by a person invested with public authority carries a risk of up to a year in prison and a €15,000 fine, according to the French Penal Code cited by Barbier-Sainte-Marie.

The Court of Justice of the Republic is a special body that tries government ministers for alleged wrongdoing while in office.

BUSINESSMAN PAID FROM PUBLIC FUNDS

The money in question was paid to businessman Bernard Tapie from public funds.

Lagarde said in a statement released by French adviser Marc Vanghelder that she "always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law".

She considers "no charge can be attributed to her", the statement said.

Lagarde's lawyers have five days after the formal notification of the decision to lodge an appeal.

"It's incomprehensible," her lawyer Yves Repiquet has said.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin stressed that Lagarde "is presumed innocent" and should remain in her job.

The probe began before Lagarde became IMF chief in 2011.

She took over from Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who left under sexual assault allegations.

- Edie Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this story.