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Orange CEO’s future uncertain after receiving suspended prison sentence and fine in fraud case

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Stéphane Richard had previously been acquitted in the long-running court case and says he will appeal.

Orange Group’s CEO, Stéphane Richard, today received a one-year suspended prison sentence by a French appeals court.

The fraud case centres around the late French businessman Bernard Tapie, and has nothing to do with Orange. It goes back to 2008 when he was Chief of Staff for Christine Lagarde, then France’s finance minister, and Tapie received state funds of €400 million.

Tapie had claimed that Credit Lyonnais – parts of which later passed into state-ownership at the Consortium de Realisation bank – had defrauded him in the early 1990s.

Legarde is now President of the European Central Bank (ECB). She was convicted of negligence over the Tapie affair in December 2016

Prosecutors had pushed for Richard to receive a three-year sentence and €100,000 fine. He was found not guilty of one count of fraud but convicted of complicity in the misuse of public funds. He has also been given a €50,000 fine.

Orange is not commenting on the case, but the board will meet later today to discuss Richard’s future at the company which he has led since 2011 and has made it clear he wishes to continue.

The French state has a 23% stake in Orange, and finance minister Bruno Le Maire has said that senior executives of government-backed companies must leave if convicted of a crime.

Richard has denied any wrongdoing throughout and rejected the verdict, saying he would appeal to a higher court.