Bank eyes Tapie's mansion

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The Independent Online
PARIS (AFP) - France's state-controlled Credit Lyonnais bank yesterday ordered Bernard Tapie, the businessman-turned-politician, to repay debts of 450m francs ( pounds 53m) within a week or risk losing his house and works of art.

Also yesterday, reliable sources said investigating magistrates had demanded the lifting of Mr Tapie's parliamentary immunity to face charges of tax fraud concerning his private yacht. On Tuesday another judicial official sought removal of the immunity so that Mr Tapie could be charged with embezzling funds from the Tahiti-based company that bought and operates the yacht.

Mr Tapie vowed not to be deterred from his campaign for a seat in the European Parliament. He said he would make no further comment on his long-running financial and judicial woes until after the European elections on 12 June. 'All the judicial attacks and prosecution cases laid against me are solely designed to stop me speaking out' on Europe, said Mr Tapie, who heads a Leftist Radicals (MRG) list and is virtually certain to win a seat in Strasbourg.

Dominique Bazy, a member of the Credit Lyonnais board, said Mr Tapie had been given seven days to repay the debt or the bank would seek to have his sumptuous Paris mansion and collection of antique furniture and artworks sold. He said the 450m francs was part of 1.2bn francs owed to Credit Lyonnais by Mr Tapie and his companies.

The heavily loss-making bank reached a five-year rescheduling agreement on the loans with Mr Tapie in March, but moved last week to recover some of the funds more quickly after other big creditors, including French tax authorities, emerged.

'The money owed to the taxman is doubtless substantial, and consequently we no longer have a mortgage on all of Tapie's assets,' Mr Bazy said.

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