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WASHINGTON: The IMF Executive Board reaffirmed on Monday its "full confidence" in the Washington-based crisis lender's chief, Kristalina Georgieva, keeping her on as managing director after she was hit with allegations of data tampering.

"Having looked at all the evidence presented, the Executive Board reaffirms its full confidence in the Managing Director's leadership and ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties," the institution's governing body said.

An investigation by law firm WilmerHale has concluded that the Bulgarian economist manipulated data in favor of China while in a senior role at the World Bank.

WilmerHale's controversial findings center on the drafting of the 2018 and 2020 editions of the World Bank's report ranking countries according to their ease of doing business.

The push came while bank leadership was engaged in sensitive negotiations with Beijing over increasing the bank's lending capital.

The IMF board said it "considered that the information presented in the course of its review did not conclusively demonstrate that the Managing Director played an improper role regarding the Doing Business 2018 Report when she was CEO of the World Bank."

IMF says still no decision on whether Georgieva keeps her job

Georgieva welcomed the decision, saying the allegations were "unfounded."

"This has obviously been a difficult episode for me personally," said the 68-year-old, who took the helm of the International Monetary Fund in October 2019 after Christine Lagarde departed to lead the European Central Bank.

"I want to express my unyielding support for the independence and integrity of institutions such as the World Bank and IMF; and my respect for all those committed to protecting the values on which these organizations are founded," she said in a statement.

"I am pleased that after a comprehensive, impartial review of the facts, the IMF Board agrees that the allegations were unfounded. I want to thank the Board for expressing its full confidence in my leadership," she added.

"Trust and integrity are the cornerstones of the multinational organizations that I have faithfully served for more than four decades."

The investigation has deeply divided the 24 members of the IMF's Executive Board.

While France, Britain and other European countries expressed their support for Georgieva, the United States has been more reluctant to keep her in post.

It was only at the end of nearly four weeks of discussions that Washington joined the Europeans in agreeing to retain Georgieva.

A native of Sofia, she taught economics there for 26 years, and built up environmental experience with a focus on agriculture and sustainable development.

Her main priorities at the IMF have been fighting inequality and climate change, as well as better integrating women into the economy.

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