Inquiry threat may linger for IMF hopeful Lagarde


French judges may seek more time to decide on opening an inquiry into Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s role in a 2008 arbitration payout, meaning allegations of misconduct could hang over her bid to head the IMF. Three judges will meet on Friday to discuss whether the case brought against her by opposition deputies merits a formal probe, and a judicial source said they will likely seek extra time before deciding.
“It’s likely there won’t be a decision on Friday,” the source at the Court of Justice of the Republic, a special tribunal qualified to judge ministers, told Reuters. “The June 10 meeting is a simple working meeting. There could be a decision, but not necessarily. The decision could come any time, it’s not even sure that it will come in June, there is no visibility on the date.” Lagarde is the favourite to head the International Monetary Fund after her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn quit the post last month to defend himself against a charge of attempted rape.
Having the threat of a legal inquiry hanging over her could prove a hitch to her candidacy, however.
Coincidentally, June 10 is also the deadline for candidates to register for the IMF managing director job. The international lender wants to appoint a new chief by the end of June. Lagarde, a former high-flying lawyer and one of France’s most influential ministers, has denied any misconduct in her approval of a 285 million euro arbitration payment to Bernard Tapie, a friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy, to settle a long-running dispute between him and a state-owned bank.