IMF managing director Christine Lagarde evades fraud accusation

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The IMF chief Christine Lagarde escaped a formal accusation of fraud after two days of interrogation by a special court in France.

Ms Lagarde, 57,  spent 24 hours over two days answering questions about her role in a €403m (£344m) compensation award to the disgraced tycoon, Bernard Tapie, while she was French finance minister in 2008.

The Republican Court of Justice, which examines alleged wrong-doing by ministers and ex-ministers, decided last night to make Ms Lagarde an “assisted witness” in the case, rather than a formal suspect.

Although this status could change, the much-admired, Ms Lagarde is now unlikely to face a formal investigation for “embezzlement” of state funds, as had been widely expected.

Ms Lagarde contested all allegations of wrongdoing during 24 hours of questioning over two days by three magistrates. She said last night that the decision  “was no surprise to me, because I always acted in the interests of the state and in accordance with the law.”

In 1995, Mr Tapie  began an interminable legal action against the French state, complaining that he had been defrauded by a state-owned bank, Credit(acute on e) Lyonnais (now defunct)  when it sold the sports company Adidas on his behalf .

Mr Tapie  won a series of legal judgements but no agreement could be reached on compensation. In 2008, soon after she was appointed finance minister, Ms Lagarde appointed a four-man panel to short-circuit the legal arguments which proposed a €403m settlement.