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French tycoon Bernard Tapie must repay the 404 million euros (USD 449 million) he received to settle his long-running dispute with the state over the sale of sports equipment maker Adidas, an appeals court ruled today. The massive 2008 award, which had shocked the French public, was later found to be fraudulent because Tapie had links to one of the arbitrators appointed to settle the case with Credit Lyonnais bank. Tapie, 74, had appealed against a ruling ordering him to repay the money but France's highest appeals court upheld the decision. The ruling is yet another blow for the former owner of Olympique Marseille football club, who has been charged with organised fraud over the payout, along with five others, including Stephane Richard, head of Orange telecoms company. Tapie, who has been declared bankrupt, has said he is "broke".
The state has seized 90 million euros in assets from the businessman, who served briefly as cities minister under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand. The sprawling Tapie affair drew in IMF chief Christine Lagarde, a former French economy minister, at one point. Lagarde was minister when Tapie received the payout. She referred the case to arbitration and later declined to contest the award, despite it being seen as hugely prejudicial to French taxpayers. In December, a special Paris court that tries allegations of wrongdoing by ministers found Lagarde guilty of negligence but spared her any penalty.
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