Controversial French businessman Bernard Tapie was questioned by judges on Tuesday in a probe over a huge state payout that has also led to scrutiny of IMF chief Christine Lagarde, sources familiar with the case said.
The Court of Appeal in Paris last month struck out the 403-million-euro payment ($430 million) awarded by arbitrators in 2008 to settle Tapie's dispute with Credit Lyonnais bank.
The magistrates who heard Tapie for the first time Tuesday are seeking to determine whether the 2008 ruling was a sham with one of the three judges suspected of longterm ties with one of Tapie's lawyers.
The 2008 arbitration in the business tycoon's favour ended a long row over the sale of sportswear group Adidas, which Tapie sold in 1993.
Tapie claimed Credit Lyonnais had defrauded him by intentionally undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale and that the state, as the bank's principal shareholder, should compensate him.
Lagarde was France's finance minister at the time of the award won by Tapie, who had close ties to former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Her handling of the case -- specifically her failure to challenge the award that was hugely beneficial to Tapie but prejudicial to the state -- has seen her placed under formal investigation for "negligence".
She had denied any wrongdoing.
The questioning of Tapie could continue for several days. His lawyer declined to comment on Tuesday.