(Agence Ecofin) – Under the influence of legal proceedings in the Tapie-Crédit Lyonnais affair, while he was chief of staff to Christine Lagarde, Stéphane Richard has always claimed his innocence. Eight years later, the French justice condemns him on appeal after having acquitted him at first instance.
Stéphane Richard, the CEO of the French telecoms group Orange tendered his resignation on the evening of Wednesday, November 24. His decision came after his suspended sentence of one year in prison and a fine of 50,000 euros by the Paris Court of Appeal, for “complicity in the embezzlement of public funds” in the very controversial Tapie-Credit Lyonnais case.
The Orange Board of Directors, which accepted this departure, however agreed to keep Stéphane Richard at the head of the telecoms company until January 31, 2022, the time for it to acquire a whole new governance.
Stéphane Richard will leave the Orange group after eleven years spent at its peak. He had indeed become the big boss of the telecom operator on February 24, 2011, then called France Telecom. Orange’s board of directors indicates that it “ will have marked the history of the group in sometimes tumultuous periods and always preserving the interest of the company ”, In particular through the appeasement of the social crisis that arose after the series of employee suicides between 2008 and 2010. It will also have contributed to making Orange a leading multi-service operator in Europe and Africa.
The conviction at the origin of Stéphane Richard’s resignation is a new episode in the arbitration of the Tapie-Crédit Lyonnais Affair, which took place in 2008 and in which he played a role, even if he has always supported no having executed that ” the ministerial decision to go to arbitration which was fully assumed by Christine Lagarde [ministre de l’Économie de Nicolas Sarkozy] “. From this arbitration, the State was ordered to compensate Bernard Tapie up to 403 million euros to settle the dispute between him and the bank since the sale of Adidas in 1992.
The decision criticized, had led in 2013 to the indictment of Stéphane Richard and several other people including Bernard Tapie for “swindle in organized gangs”. Two years later, the arbitration was quashed by the Court of Appeal. Then in 2017, Stéphane Richard and the other defendants in the case had been sent back to correctional. In 2019, the Paris court of first instance pronounced his acquittal and that of the other defendants. But the prosecution had appealed against this decision, an approach which resulted in his current conviction.
Reacting to this court decision, Stéphane Richard affirmed that ” the accusations of complicity in the embezzlement of public funds are without merit and are not based on any evidence. I reject them totally and will appeal to cassation ».
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