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IMF chief Christine Lagarde is to stand trial in France for alleged negligence over a €400m (£291m; $434m) payment to a businessman in 2008.
She was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a firm.
Mr Tapie supported Mr Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.
Ms Lagarde's lawyer described the court's decision as "incomprehensible", and said the IMF boss would appeal.
Mr Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand's Socialist government.
He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.
His case was later referred by Ms Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation.