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France

French tycoon Bernard Tapie to return to politics to fight Front National

media Bernard Tapie Reuters/Charles Platiau

Controversial French entrepreneur and former minister Bernard Tapie says he plans to return to politics, claiming that he has a scheme to abolish youth unemployment and take on the far-right Front National (FN). Tapie was recently ordered to refund 404 million euros awarded to him in a legal dispute with the Crédit Lyonnais bank.

"Yes, I'm returning to politics," Tapie told the Journal du Dimanche Sunday newspaper in a shock announcement following a resounding defeat in the courts.

Although his lawyers have vowed to find a way to fight an appeal court decision made earlier this month, it seems that he has reached the end of a 20-year legal battle and will have to refund the millions he claimed to have lost when the bank sold his Adidas sporting empire following a previous declaration of bankruptcy.

The case has led to legal action against IMF chief Christine Lagarde for allegedly putting pressure on the arbitration panel that made the initial award when she was finance minister under then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in return for political services rendered.

Tapie, who rose to fame and fortune from humble beginnings, has bounced back before and apparently intends to do so again.

This time he says he has a plan that would mean a job for everyone between 18 and 25 who wants to work.

All that needs to be done is to redirect all the money invested in job-creation schemes that are not work at the moment into training in skills that the market needs, he says.

He will present the plan to ministers and party leaders soon, Tapie goes on, pointing out that President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have called for "national unity" to fight unemployment, blaming it in part for the rise in support for the FN.

Tapie believes he is the man to stop the revamped far right's political ascension, claiming to have done so before in the 1994 European elections, when he headed a Left Radicals slate that beat the FN, then led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, into fifth place.

His 12.3 per cent could also be blamed for the Socialists, led by Michel Rocard, coming second in that election and, despite having been minister for urban areas in a Socialist government in 1992-93, he later did his bit for right-winger Sarkozy in the 2007 and 2012 presidential elections.

Asked on Sunday whether he was thinking of standing for president in 2017, Tapie told the paper, "Everything in its own time."

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