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French magistrates on Friday designated International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde as an ‘assisted witness’ in their investigation into the conditions of a payout, when she was French finance minister, of more than 400 million euros to controversial tycoon Bernard Tapie. Mediapart has learnt from several well-placed sources the reasons why the judges backed off from placing her under formal investigation, a move originally favoured by two of the three magistrates leading the investigation. These are said to include an extraordinary last-minute public statement in support of Lagarde by French finance minister Pierre Moscovici (pictured top left with Lagarde), and a reported change to her previous account that she managed the Tapie case without interference from the presidential office.
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