France Télécom CEO charged with conspiracy to defraud

The allegations relate to his former role as cabinet director for the French Finance Minister

Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of France Télécom.

Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of France Télécom.

France Télécom's CEO Stéphane Richard has been charged with conspiracy to defraud, a Paris court announced Wednesday. The charge relates to alleged activities before he joined the company.

The Financial Brigade of the French police arrested Richard Monday in order to question him about his alleged role in a five-year-old political scandal. He was charged Wednesday, according to French news site Réseaux et Télécoms.

The allegations against Richard relate to a dispute between the bank Crédit Lyonnais and French businessman and political figure Bernard Tapie over the sale of the sporting goods company Adidas. The dispute was resolved by an arbitration panel appointed by the Ministry of Finance, resulting in a payment of €403 million to Tapie. Investigators want to know how the decision to appoint the panel came about, and whether the arbitration process was entirely legal.

Richard was allegedly involved through his role as cabinet director for Christine Lagarde, then the French Minister of Finance. Lagarde has since become director of the International Monetary Fund, while Richard joined France Télécom in September 2009, becoming chairman and CEO in March 2011.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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