Anyone seeking the true cause of the disaffection of Western electorates with the Western political elite need look no further than the case of the IMF’s Director, Christine Lagarde.
Lagarde has just been convicted by a French court of negligence in a case involving the French businessman Bernard Tapie, to whom contrary to the advice of her officials she authorised a loan of 400 million euros of French taxpayers’ money whilst she was France’s Finance Minister, which has now been lost.
Notwithstanding the court’s verdict of guilty – from which there is no appeal – Lagarde is not being punished and is keeping her job as Director of the IMF.
The court had the option of fining Lagarde 15,000 euros, or sending her to prison for a year, but it chose not to do either.
The IMF’s Board, made up of the representatives of Finance Ministries from around the world but in practice heavily dominated by the Western powers, also decided to take no action against her.
The prosecutor charged with bringing the case against Lagarde, far from prosecuting her with any vigour, did all in his power to get her acquitted, actually telling the court that the evidence against her was “flimsy”, and warning the court “not to confuse law and politics”.
That would imply that the case against Lagarde was politically motivated and brought to settle political scores and was not based on actual evidence. If so then the fact the case was brought at all together with the verdict of guilty shows how threadbare Western claims about the independence of the West’s judiciaries actually is.
Having nonetheless convicted Lagarde of negligence against the wishes of the prosecutor, the court then exposed its own weakness and its lack of faith in its own judgment by failing to impose any punishment on her.
As for the IMF, it is apparently happy to retain as its Director someone a French court has found guilty of losing 400 million euros of French taxpayers’ money.
The IMF has a notorious reputation for the harsh austerity it imposes on non-Western countries. It is often – and in my opinion rightly – accused of taking a bad situation and making it worse. Notorious examples are its mismanagement of Russia’s economy in the 1990s, its mishandling of the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, and its disastrous role in the bailouts of Greece. Tens of millions of people have suffered because of these “mistakes”.
Now the IMF’s own Director has been convicted by a court in France of a “mistake” which has led to 400 million euros of French taxpayers’ money being lost without however suffering any consequences. Whatever way one tries to spin it, inevitably people will see it as another example of the Davos elite looking after its own whilst everyone else pays the price.
In France people have long since become accustomed to the seemingly unending corruption scandals involving the French elite. The almost regular failure of these scandals to result in any serious reckoning for those involved has long since created a mood of cynicism within French society.
Whether the facts of Lagarde’s case will shake the French public out of this cynicism is open to doubt. What one can however say with confidence say is that it is cases like Lagarde’s which explain why Marine Le Pen is now a serious prospect for French President.