Ex-Adidas Owner Blasts Judge Over Bias at $454 Million Trial

(Bloomberg) -- Bernard Tapie, who owned Adidas AG two decades ago, stood up on the second day of his fraud trial to accuse the judge of being biased in favor of investigators while she was reading out a summary of the indictment.

Shortly after Presiding Judge Christine Mee had begun summarizing investigators’ findings, Tapie’s lawyer, Herve Temime protested that certain elements were being presented as facts when they represent views of the investigative magistrates who wrote the indictment.

Tapie is on trial with Orange SA Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard in a long-running French drama over Tapie’s sale of his stake in Adidas in 1993. Prosecutors say the men cheated the government when Tapie won a 403 million euros ($454 million) award in an arbitration case after he complained about state-owned Credit Lyonnais’s handling of the sale. The saga has even ensnared current International Monetary Fund Chairman Christine Lagarde, who failed to appeal the payout while she served as finance minister more than a decade ago.

“This is unbelievable, it’s a fantasy,” an agitated Tapie told the judge at the Paris criminal court Tuesday. “You’re reading us the tall tale they’ve been telling us for the last 15 years. Be precise. This doesn’t have anything to do with the reality.”

Mee was also the presiding judge in the Paris trial of UBS Group AG where the bank got a record 4.5 billion-euro penalty for helping wealthy French clients stash undeclared funds in Swiss accounts.

“I’m obliged to read out the elements that have been gathered as part of the investigation,” Mee told Tapie. “For the moment, the court isn’t making any judgment.”

Mee wasn’t completely able to calm Tapie, who later muttered that “she should be ashamed of herself.”

The trial is set to end on April 5, with a ruling expected several months later. Richard isn’t expected to take the stand until next week.

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