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The second-highest ranking official at the International Monetary Fund, Geoffrey Okamoto, will step down early next year and be succeeded by the fund’s chief economist Gita Gopinath, months after the organisation’s top leadership weathered a major scandal.

The IMF on Thursday announced the surprise exit of Okamoto, who was appointed first deputy managing director in March 2020, and named Gopinath, who has served as the fund’s chief economist since 2019, as his replacement.

Gopinath, who was expected to return to her position at Harvard University, will assume the role on January 21.

“Both Geoffrey and Gita are tremendous colleagues — I am sad to see Geoffrey go but, at the same time, I am delighted that Gita has decided to stay and accept the new responsibility ,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the once-embattled managing director of the IMF, in a statement. “She is the right person at the right time . . . I value highly her sound judgment, good counsel, and unwavering support.”

The transition comes after Georgieva was accused in September of manipulating data to benefit China while at the helm of the World Bank — charges she repeatedly denied. The IMF executive board opted to retain her in October after extensive deliberations and affirmed it had “full confidence” in her ability to carry out her responsibilities.

In a statement released on Thursday, Okamoto, who previously served in the Treasury department during the Trump administration, said he would be returning to the private sector.

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