IMF chief Lagarde found guilty of negligence by French court over payout to businessman

IMF chief Lagarde found guilty of negligence by French court over payout to businessman
The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has been found guilty of negligence by a Paris court over a huge payout she approved to a business tycoon while serving as French finance minister in 2008.

Despite the guilty finding, the Court of Justice of the Republic did not issue any sentence for the IMF chief.

The official denies the negligence charges, and her lawyers will now look into appealing the court ruling, Reuters reported.

The decision not to hand down a punishment was made considering Lagarde's good reputation and international standing, Reuters reported, citing the main judge, Martine Ract Madoux. She added that "the context of the global financial crisis in which Madame Lagarde found herself" was "taken into account."

Lagarde was not present when the court announced its verdict on Monday, Reuters reported citing her lawyer.

The long-running case revolves around an arbitration deal over the sale of Adidas sportswear, which saw tycoon Bernard Tapie receiving a €403 million ($425 million) payout. Tapie is said to have had connections in the highest circles of French society, including then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The IMF Executive Board is expected to arrange a meeting shortly “to consider developments related to the legal proceedings in France,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Monday, as cited by Reuters.

Ahead of the Monday ruling, Lagarde argued that negligence was “an unintentional offense.”

I think we are all a bit negligent sometimes in our life. I have done my job as well as I could, within the limits of what I knew,” she told France 2 television.

The 60-year-old official was facing the prospect of up to a year in jail and a fine of €15,000 ($15,660). Yet the Court of Justice of the Republic, intended for proceedings against government ministers, has never passed a jail sentence on anyone in its 23 years of existence.

The verdict issued against the IMF chief could trigger a new leadership crisis at the Washington-based organization. Lagarde's predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, another former French minister, resigned in 2011 amid a scandal when he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid.