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The timing could hardly have been better. Bernard Tapie, probably the most controversial businessman in modern French history, was cleared earlier this week of the charge that he defrauded the state and Crédit Lyonnais – then majority-state-owned – of €404 million awarded to him to settle a dispute involving the sale of his controlling stake in the sportswear company Adidas.
Tapie, now 76-years-old and suffering from cancer, was the primary victor in what was a long-running and bitterly contested legal battle. But the fact that all charges against him, including that of embezzlement, were dropped yesterday by Paris’s top criminal court also disperses a cloud hanging over the head of Christine Lagarde, the newly-nominated head of the European Central Bank.