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IMF board to interview Georgieva on data-rigging claims Wednesday -sources

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FILE PHOTO: Financing of African Economies summit in Paris

(Corrects day of no comment in paragraph 7.)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The International Monetary Fund's executive board will interview Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday as it reviews claims she pressured World Bank staff to alter data to favor China in her previous role, sources familiar with the plans said.

An IMF spokesperson declined to comment on the board's timeline.

Board members were initially expected to meet with Georgieva on Tuesday, but spent their time working on other regular business matters, one of the sources said.

On Monday, board members spent hours questioning lawyers from the WilmerHale firm about their World Bank investigation report, which alleged that Georgieva, as the bank's CEO in 2017, applied undue pressure on staff alter data in the flagship "Doing Business" report to benefit China.

Afterward, an IMF spokesperson said the IMF board "remains committed to a thorough, objective, and timely review" of the matter.

Georgieva, who has strongly denied the accusations, did not mention the issue during a virtual speech on Tuesday about the global economy ahead of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings Oct. 11-17.

A spokesperson for Georgieva declined to comment on Tuesday.

This week's interviews could prove pivotal in either increasing or eroding support for Georgieva, with many IMF shareholders keen to wrap up the board's deliberations on the matter before next week's high-profile meetings.

Thus far, the fund's most influential member governments, including top shareholder the United States, have withheld public judgment as the review process plays out.

The World Bank in January tasked WilmerHale with investigating the "Doing Business" data irregularities identified in 2020, and then issued its findings implicating Georgieva on Sept. 16.

The law firm's report contends Georgieva and former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim's office pressured staff to manipulate data so China's global ranking in the "Doing Business 2018" study of investment climates rose to 78th from 85th.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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