Seizure of tycoon’s assets could damage Sarkozy

Judges have ordered a Mediterranean villa and other assets to be seized from a French businessman at the centre of a fraud investigation that could weigh on ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s hopes of a comeback, sources said.

Bailiffs will confiscate assets worth tens of millions of euro belonging to tycoon Bernard Tapie, in a move that suggests investigating judges believe they have evidence of fraud in a €403m arbitration payment he got in 2008 under Sarkozy’s presidency.

Finance minister Pierre Moscovici said the Socialist government, which took power after Sarkozy’s May 2012 election defeat, had asked for “protective measures” to be taken in case reparations needed to be made to the state.

Under formal investigation since Jun 28 on suspicion the arbitration payment may have been rigged, Tapie has denied any wrongdoing.

The centre-right Sarkozy has immunity for life for any acts carried out while he was president. However he could come under scrutiny if it emerged that the arbitration settlement was being planned earlier on, when he was finance minister.

The Tapie affair is one of a string of legal headaches pressing on Sarkozy as he mulls a possible political comeback to reunite his fractured UMP conservative party ahead of the 2017 presidential election.

It has embroiled several of his former ministers, including IMF head Christine Lagarde, his finance minister in 2008.

Tapie — who backed Sarkozy in the last two elections — was awarded the money in a dispute with Credit Lyonnais bank over a 1993 share sale.

— Reuters


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