Tapie charged over 'fixed' football match

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BERNARD TAPIE, the French entrepreneur turned politician, was charged with corruption yesterday over an alleged attempt to fix a football match between Marseille and Valenciennes.

Mr Tapie, the minister for towns in the last Socialist government, now president of Marseille, was ordered by the Valenciennes examining magistrate investigating the case to step down as head of the Marseilles club by 20 April. After a 30-minute meeting, Mr Tapie said the magistrate, Bernard Beffy, wanted to 'destroy' his team.

The formal charge against Mr Tapie was of 'complicity in corruption and suborning witnesses'. The latter part of the charge appears to refer to attempts to concoct alibis.

The affair, dating back to a league match on 20 May 1993, has been traumatic for Marseille and their supporters. Since then, the team has been stripped of its European Cup title, won against Milan the week after the Valenciennes match, and banned from international competition for a season.

Mr Tapie, now head of the small MRG left-wing radicals' party, said in October he wanted to sell Marseille to devote himself to politics. He is expected to run for election as mayor of Marseilles and even be an outside candidate for state president when Francois Mitterrand's term ends in May 1995.

Two Valenciennes players were earlier charged with accepting money to fix the match to allow Marseille to win the league. Pierre Bernes, Marseille's managing director, has also been charged.

In Valenciennes yesterday, the magistrate ordered Mr Tapie to pay 250,000 francs in bail and warned him not to contact other people involved in the case. Last month, a National Assembly commission refused to lift Mr Tapie's parliamentary immunity so he could face charges.

In December, the National Assembly did, however, lift his immunity to allow Mr Tapie to be charged with financial mismanagement of his Testut kitchen and bathroom scales firm.