IMF head Christine Lagarde is facing trial French trial for alleged negligence over a €404 million ($438 million) payment to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.
Christine Lagarde, 59, was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a company.
Bernard Tapie supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.
Christine Lagarde’s lawyer described the court’s decision as “incomprehensible”, and said the IMF chief would appeal.
In a statement Christine Lagarde said she had “always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law”, AP reported.
Bernard Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand’s Socialist government.
He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.
Bernard Lagarde’s case was later referred by Christine Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation, causing a public outcry.
Investigators suspect he was granted a deal in return for his support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Bernard Tapie was not entitled to any compensation for that sale and should pay back the €404 million with interest.
France’s Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) decided that Christine Lagarde should be tried on the charge of “negligence by a person in position of public authority” over the compensation case, iTele TV channel and the Mediapart website reported on December 17.
A court spokesman later confirmed the decision.
If convicted, Christine Lagarde could be sentenced to one year in prison.
French media said the CJR investigation magistrates declined to follow the recommendation of another court which last year decided not to pursue the case.
“It’s incomprehensible,” Christine Lagarde’s lawyer Yves Repiquet told iTele.
“I will recommend Mrs. Lagarde appeal against this decision.”
A spokesman for France’s attorney general said Christine Lagarde would have five days to appeal, once the court decision is made public on December 18 or December 21.
Meanwhile, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the organization – which represents 188 member nations – “continues to express its confidence in the managing director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties”.
Christine Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn – also a former French minister – resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of assault that were later dropped.