June 10 - Stephane Richard, CEO of Orange, formerly known as France Telecom, was held for questioning on Monday over his role in a 2008 arbitration process which resulted in a large pay-out to French businessman Bernard Tapie. At the time, Richard was chief of staff for then-Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who has previously been questioned in the probe. Joanna Partridge reports
The financial police department in Paris, where Orange CEO Stephane Richard is being held for questioning. It's over his role in an arbritration process that resulted in a large payout to French businessman Bernard Tapie. Authorities are investigating the French government's decision in 2008 to award Tapie 285 million euros to settle a long-running business dispute, rather than taking the case before the courts. At the time, Richard was chief of staff to Christine Lagarde, who was then Nicolas Sarkozy's finance minister, before she took her current role as head of the IMF. Lagarde was also questioned last month as part of the investigation. Richard has previously denied any wrongdoing. His spokesman said he could be questioned for up to 48 hours. State-backed firm Orange recently changed its name from France Telecom. The firm declined to comment, and its stock was down around 1.5% by mid-afternoon on Monday. The corruption probe has put Richard in a delicate position with the government, which owns 27% of the company and chooses its CEO. Richard's contract is up for renewal next year.