PARIS, June 10 Orange CEO Stephane
Richard was held for questioning on Monday over his role in a
2008 arbitration process that resulted in a large pay-out to
businessman Bernard Tapie, a judicial source said.
Richard was at the time head of cabinet to Christine
Lagarde, who was finance minister to conservative former
president Nicolas Sarkozy before she became head of the
International Monetary Fund.
Richard has denied any wrongdoing in earlier statements. On
Monday a spokesman for him said the questioning could last up to
48 hours before a decision was made on placing Richard under
Orange, which has recently changed its name from France
Telecom, declined to comment. Its shares traded down 1.09
percent at 7.547 euros at 0847 GMT.
The corruption probe has put Richard, whose contract at the
state-backed company is up for renewal next year, in a delicate
position with the government, which owns 27 percent of the group
and chooses its chief executive.
The Socialist government has not yet replaced any of the
bosses of the major state-owned companies.
"The state in its role as a shareholder will take a position
if needed at the right time on the continuing case," Industry
Minister Arnaud Montebourg said in a statement.
Authorities are investigating the French government's
decision in 2008 to award tycoon Bernard Tapie 285 million euros
($373 million) in damages as part of his long-running battle
with now-defunct bank Credit Lyonnais over the 1993 sale of his
stake in sports clothing firm Adidas.