France's ambassador to Ivory Coast accused of sexual harassment

By Michael Pauron
Ambassador Gilles Huberson, left, with the French and Ivory Coast ministers of the interior at Abidjan in May 2019. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP Ambassador Gilles Huberson, left, with the French and Ivory Coast ministers of the interior at Abidjan in May 2019. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an internal inquiry into Gilles Huberson, ambassador to Ivory Coast, after several women accused him of sexist and sexual violence, Mediapart has learnt. Huberson, who occupies one of France's most prestigious diplomatic postings in Africa, is reported to have returned to Paris, even though Ivory Coast faces an important and potentially tense election in less than two months. Michel Pauron reports.

How France's Covid test and trace strategy became overwhelmed

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The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP

The spread of the Covid-19 virus is accelerating in France and already the country's testing system is struggling to cope. Many people are having to wait for tests, long queues have formed at testing stations and laboratories, and delays in results themselves – which can be up to five days – are “unacceptable”, the authorities admit. After pushing the policy of mass testing in the summer the government is now trying to rein back and give precedence to priority cases. Experts say that, once again, the national authorities have failed to anticipate events and demand. One glimmer of hope may be the arrival of new, much faster tests. Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports.

Academic warns of dangers of 'simple solutions' as Macron tacks right on law and order

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Jacques de Maillard. (© Sciences-Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye) Jacques de Maillard. (© Sciences-Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye)

Through his appointment of the tough-talking Gérald Darmanin as interior minister, President Emmanuel Macron has shown himself to be a conservative on law and order issues, following in the footsteps of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. The French Left, meanwhile, which is wary of once again being portrayed as “soft” on crime, is showing signs of wanting to set its own agenda on the issue ahead of the 2022 presidential election. Against this backdrop Mediapart's Antoine Perraud spoke to political scientist Jacques de Maillard, an expert on the police and on law and order issues, about the fight against crime and the effectiveness of statistics. The academic warns against the “perverse effects” of focusing too narrowly on crime figures and of the dangers of proclaiming “simple solutions” to what are complex issues.

Blow for Sarkozy as prosecutors cleared over hunt for 'mole' who tipped him off about phone tap

By and
Defence lawyer turned minister of justice Éric Dupond-Moretti and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. © AFP Defence lawyer turned minister of justice Éric Dupond-Moretti and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. © AFP

In 2014 prosecutors from France's financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF) wanted to discover the identity of the 'mole' inside the legal world who had tipped off Nicolas Sarkozy that his phones were being tapped as part of what became known as the 'Bismuth' affair. When details of this hunt were revealed by Le Point magazine it caused an outcry among many top lawyers - including defence lawyer Éric Dupond-Moretti who is now the minister of justice - and an investigation was launched into the actions of the PNF. At the time, many in the former president's entourage felt the revelations proved there was a sustained attempt to discredit him. But the Ministry's of Justice's inspectorate which investigated the affair has just reported, and finds that the PNF's actions were legal and proper. As Fabrice Arfi and Michel Deléan report, the report's verdict will be seen as a setback for the ex-head of state

French prosecutors seek access to Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto's secret files

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Rui Pinto has been living under police protection since August; his trial in Portugal began on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel Rui Pinto has been living under police protection since August; his trial in Portugal began on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel

The French financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF) has written to the Portuguese authorities asking to question the Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto. They also want full access to the 70 million or so confidential documents that he has obtained on the world of professional football. Pinto is currently on trial in Portugal charged with computer hacking, violation of private correspondence and attempted blackmail, which together carry a possible jail term of 25 years. The move by the French prosecutors is good news for Pinto, however, as it supports his claim that his sole motive was to expose corruption and fraud in the sport. Yann Philippin reports.

Questions over curious intervention of French state as luxury firm LVMH breaks deal with Tiffany

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LVMH boss Bernard Arnault and Emmanuel Macron in June 2017. © Martin BUREAU / AFP LVMH boss Bernard Arnault and Emmanuel Macron in June 2017. © Martin BUREAU / AFP

France's foreign minister has written an extraordinary letter that provides 'cover' for the French luxury goods group LVMH to pull out of an expensive deal to buy famous American jewellery firm Tiffany it no longer wanted to complete. That letter came after LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault reportedly asked foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for help. The affair is now likely to lead to a long and bitter legal battle, one that could even end up with the French state facing claims for compensation from disgruntled shareholders. Mediapart's Martine Orange argues in this op-ed article that no French government has ever gone out on such a limb to support a private company.

France's literary season kicks off with tales of social movements and commitment

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There is no way of knowing yet what kind and level of social protests may emerge in France this autumn. But judging by the new books from authors Alice Zeniter, Barbara Stiegler, Émilie Notéris, Sandra Lucbert and Aude Lancelin that have been published at the end of the summer break, one of the themes of the new literary season looks set to be that of political commitment and struggle – and the way in which people get involved. Lise Wajeman looks at a mixture of new fiction and non-fictional accounts of recent social conflicts and workplace disputes in France, and finds that 'hybrid' forms of writing win out over the traditional novel form.

French PM Jean Castex: mystery of legal probe dropped three days after his appointment

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Photographs obtained by Mediapart appear to undermine claims by Jean Castex concerning a criminal investigation that was abruptly halted just three days after he was appointed as France's new prime minister. Castex, who until he was named premier on July 3rd had been mayor of the southern French town of Prades and president of a local group of municipal councils, said that the judicial probe – which is into the handling of rubbish disposal in that area - did not target him in any way. Yet the photographs show that his local authority was directly involved in the waste handling process which was at the heart of that investigation. Antton Rouget reports.

Calixte, the care home worker lost to Covid-19, and a family’s fight for justice

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Calixte Songa Mbappé with two of her grandchildren. © MG Calixte Songa Mbappé with two of her grandchildren. © MG

Calixte Songa Mbappé, 54, a single mother of five, worked on temporary contracts in a care home operated by Paris City Hall when the novel coronavirus epidemic began sweeping through France. In close physical contact with the residents, but not issued with a face mask or other protective clothing, she caught the virus in mid-March and died within weeks. Her financially insecure children are now in an uphill fight for official recognition that her illness was caused at her workplace. Mathilde Goanec reports on an emblematic case of the unsung carers who lost their lives to Covid-19, and the plight of the families left behind.   

Mystery of why disgraced ex-Élysée aide Benalla secretly met African leader with key Macron ally

Alexandre Benalla and Emmanuel Macron at Le Touquet in northern France in June 2017. © Philippe Wojazer / Reuters Alexandre Benalla and Emmanuel Macron at Le Touquet in northern France in June 2017. © Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

Despite claims from the Élysée that Emmanuel Macron's former security aide no longer has any links with the presidency, Alexandre Benalla held a secret meeting with an African head of state in the company of a current member of the president's inner circle, Mediapart can reveal. At the end of May 2020 Benalla – who was sacked from the Élysée in July 2018 after being filmed beating up protesters in Paris - met with the new president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, along with Élysée aide Ludovic Chaker. Chaker is a former soldier who was the first secretary general of Macron's political movement En Marche! in 2016, and a significant figure in the president's entourage. Fabrice Arfi, Antton Rouget and Marine Turchi report.

How French drone strikes in the Sahel risk losing 'hearts and minds'

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A French Reaper drone parked at its military base in Niamey, Niger, on December 15th 2019. © Daphné Benoit/AFP A French Reaper drone parked at its military base in Niamey, Niger, on December 15th 2019. © Daphné Benoit/AFP

Two French soldiers were killed this weekend in Mali when their vehicle was targeted by an improvised explosive device, in what was a grim reminder of the difficulties the French military face in their campaign to defeat jihadist groups in the Sahel region. To strengthen its operations, France has begun deploying, for the first time anywhere, armed drones. But, as Rémi Carayol reports, while these have apparently reduced the capacity of the jihadists to launch mass attacks, the drone strikes have also made civilians fearful for their own safety, with the potential effect of losing support for the military campaign.

The Paris attacks trial and the three who slipped away

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Hayat Boumeddiene, wife of one of the perpetrators of the January 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. © DR Hayat Boumeddiene, wife of one of the perpetrators of the January 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. © DR

The trial in Paris of 14 people accused of complicity in the separate January 2015 terrorist attacks in the French capital against Charlie Hebdo magazine, a kosher store, and a policewoman, which left 17 victims dead, opened on Wednesday. Absent from the hearings are three defendants whose fate or eventual whereabouts is unknown. In this second of a two-part report, Matthieu Suc details the story of how the three got away, and the evidence that at least one of them is alive and hiding from justice in the Middle East.

The missing 'accomplices' in the Paris terrorist attacks trial

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A mural close to the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the victims of the January 2015 attack. © Stephane de Sakutin,/AFP A mural close to the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the victims of the January 2015 attack. © Stephane de Sakutin,/AFP

The trial of 14 people accused of complicity in the separate January 2015 terrorist attacks in and around the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, against a Jewish food store, and a policewoman, opened in the French capital on Wednesday. The three perpetrators, who murdered a total of 17 people, were themselves shot dead by police. Absent from the hearings are three defendants whose fate or eventual whereabouts is unknown, while others have slipped through the net of the investigations. In this first of a two-part report, Matthieu Suc details the background and chronology of events leading to this marathon trial due to end in November.

 

Under-fire French hunters lay shaky claim to biodiversity role

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French hunters scatter several thousands of tonnes of lead from spent ammunition every year, exposing groundwater and the fauna to contamination. © AFP French hunters scatter several thousands of tonnes of lead from spent ammunition every year, exposing groundwater and the fauna to contamination. © AFP

As the opening of the hunting season in France approaches this month, the country’s national hunting federation is up in arms over the banning this year of the practice of capturing songbirds with a gluey substance smeared on trees. It is is also displeased with pressure brought by the EU to limit the shooting of rare bird species. In response to increasing disapproval of the pastime, the federation claims that hunters provide a key conservationist role. ‘If there is anyone who can talk about ecology, biodiversity, climatology, it’s us,’ said its president this month. But official data tells a very different story.

'My life is still at risk' says Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto ahead of trial

By L’EIC and la rédaction de Mediapart
Rui Pinto is living under police protection ahead of his trial which opens on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel Rui Pinto is living under police protection ahead of his trial which opens on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel

Rui Pinto, the whistleblower behind the Football Leaks revelations of corruption and fraud that have rocked the world of professional football, is to stand trial in Portugal on September 4th. The 31-year-old faces 90 charges which carry up to 25 years in prison. But after reaching a cooperation agreement with Portuguese authorities, he is now in a witness protection scheme. Der Spiegel magazine, Mediapart’s partner in the European Investigative Collaborations network which jointly published the Football Leaks investigations, has met with Pinto ahead of his trial.