Stephane Richard, the chief executive of telecoms group Orange, arrives for a trial over a disputed state payment at the Paris courthouse, France, March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
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Stephane Richard won't be the star of a monthlong fraud trial that started this week in a Paris courtroom, but his role as head of one of France's largest companies hangs in the balance.Richard is accused of aiding and abetting Tapie's alleged scheme to cheat France out of 403 million euros ($454 million) in a decade-old arbitration case.In 2007, then-Finance Minister Christine Lagarde agreed to put the dispute into arbitration, and has said she relied on Richard, her chief of staff at the time, to oversee the preparation of the process, which led to the multimillion-euro award for Tapie the following year.Tapie's trial is set to last until April 5, but 57-year-old Richard won't attend the whole time.Possible sentenceThe fraud charges against Tapie and the aiding and abetting charges Richard faces carry the same maximum penalty: seven years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros.
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