PARIS -- Bernard Tapie, a wealthy businessman and erstwhile politician, is being formally investigated on suspicion of fraud in a corruption scandal that centers on a $535 million state payout to him in 2008, the office of the Paris state prosecutor and Mr. Tapie's lawyer announced on Friday.
Mr. Tapie claimed that he had been cheated when he sold Adidas to a state-owned bank in the 1990s, and an arbitration panel later awarded him the money to settle the dispute. Prosecuting judges are investigating the possibility that the arbitration was rigged. Mr. Tapie, 70, is suspected, of having orchestrated the payment by colluding with members of the arbitration panel, who were reportedly acquaintances or friends, and perhaps with members of the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then president.
He is now under investigation on suspicion of "fraud in an organized group," as are two members of the panel and Stéphane Richard, the current chief executive of France Télécom, who served at the time as cabinet director to Christine Lagarde, then the finance minister. Ms. Lagarde, who is now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has been questioned and is considered closely implicated in the case, but she has not been placed under formal investigation or charged.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.