Christine Lagarde’s humiliation is not only a massive personal blow which could lead to her resignation, but one which will plunge the world’s banking system into further ignominy.
The clearly nervous 57-year-old said nothing to reporters as she entered the Court of Justice of the Republic, a special tribunal set up to judge the conduct of France’s government ministers, shortly after 8.30am.
Lagarde faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail if found guilty of the very serious charges.
It was when she was President Nicolas Sarkozy’s finance minister that she is said to have authorised a 270 million pounds payout to one of his prominent supporters, so abusing her government position.
The money went to Bernard Tapie, a convicted football match fixer and tax dodger who supported Lagarde and Sarkozy’s UMP party.
It came after Dominque Strauss-Kahn, another senior French politician, was sacked as IMF chief following allegations that he attempted to rape a chambermaid in a New York hotel.
Ms Lagarde began campaigning to succeed Mr Strauss-Kahn soon after his arrest for the alleged crime.
But now it is Ms Lagarde, a lawyer and retired synchronised swimming star, who is facing a long court process of her own, as well as a possible jail sentence.
The scandal will not only pile further shame on France’s political class, but:
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