Story behind ex-Renault boss Carlos Ghosn's decision to flee Japan for Lebanon

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Carlos Ghosn on October 6th, 2017 © Reuters Carlos Ghosn on October 6th, 2017 © Reuters

The former Renault chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, has travelled to Lebanon having fled from Japan where he was on bail facing charges of alleged financial wrongdoing. Ghosn, who was also chairman of Renault's Japanese partner Nissan, and who has always claimed his innocence, immediately justified the extraordinary move by saying he no longer wanted to be “held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed”. From the start of the affair Ghosn has claimed he is the victim of a plot, while largely avoiding details of the allegations against him. Mediapart's Matthieu Suc, author of a recent book on Renault, reports.

France's shameful silence over Khashoggi murder trial verdicts

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The trial in Saudi Arabia of 11 men accused of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi in November 2018 ended on December 23rd with the death sentence pronounced against five of the defendants. “These verdicts are the antithesis of justice: the hit men are sentenced to death, potentially permanently silencing key witnesses, but the apparent masterminds walk free,” said UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnès Callamard. In this opinion article, Mediapart Middle East specialist René Backmann denounces the lack of reaction to the verdicts from France, which the very same day loaded three armed vessels, the first in a deal for 39, onto a freighter bound for Saudi Arabia.

Mysteries remain over Argentine 'Dirty War' fugitive who became a Sorbonne teacher

By Camille Audibert and Faiza Zerouala
Mario Sandoval escorted by police on his arrival at Buenos Aires airport after extradition from France. © Reuters Mario Sandoval escorted by police on his arrival at Buenos Aires airport after extradition from France. © Reuters

After a lengthy legal battle, a former police officer under the 1976-1983 Argentine military dictatorship was finally extradited from France this month to Buenos Aires where he was wanted for the kidnapping and disappearance of student Hernán Abriata during the junta’s so-called “Dirty War”. Although it does not feature on his extradition warrant, Mario Sandoval is also suspected of involvement in about 500 cases of torture and murder, as part of a brutal crackdown on political dissidents when an estimated 30,000 people “disappeared”. Intriguingly, Sandoval, 66, successfully settled in France in 1985, gained dual French nationality and managed to become a university teacher and 'economic intelligence' consultant before he was first unmasked in 2008. Faiza Zerouala and Argentina correspondent Camille Audibert report.

Documents place SocGen execs in question over Libyan corruption scam

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The SocGen operation involved officials of the regime of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. © Reuters. The SocGen operation involved officials of the regime of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. © Reuters.

Giant French banking group Société Générale has admitted corrupting Libyan officials under the regime of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi to gain contracts worth more than 2 billion dollars. The scam involved paying vast secret commissions to a businessman intermediary via his offshore company based in Panama. In a 2017 statement recognising its role, the bank said that it “wishes to place on record its regret about the lack of caution of some of its employees”, but documents now obtained by Mediapart suggest the operation may have been validated at the highest level of the group’s management. Fabrice Arfi reports.

'No change': critics say France maintains grip as Eco replaces CFA franc in West Africa

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French President Emmanuel Macron with his Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, December 21st. © Reuters French President Emmanuel Macron with his Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, December 21st. © Reuters

On a visit to Ivory Coast at the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and his Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara announced that the CFA franc, the common currency shared by 14 African countries and created in 1945, is to be replaced by the “Eco”. It was presented as a “historic reform” that will see France disengaging its grip over monetary policy in its former African colonies. But some economists in the region argue that, on the contrary, the Eco is a disguised continuation of French dominance, while also representing a death blow to the common currency project of the ECOWAS group of West African states. Fanny Pigeaud reports.

Net closes around Corsican clans suspected of EU subsidies fraud

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Cash cow: the Corsicana cattle breed native to Corsica. © Wikipédia Cash cow: the Corsicana cattle breed native to Corsica. © Wikipédia

The French Mediterranean island of Corsica is the focus of a series of investigations into the suspected mass fraud of European Union agricultural subsidies. One of the alleged methods of the fraud is the fictitious declaration of swathes of scrubland as pasture land for cattle farmers. The sums involved are vast, and those suspected of the scam include some closely related to the island’s notorious and feared underworld gangs. Hélène Constanty reports.

As protests sweep France, another 'oversight' by fallen pension reform tsar

Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was forced to resign his post as France's High Commissioner for Pensions on Monday. © Reuters Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was forced to resign his post as France's High Commissioner for Pensions on Monday. © Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took part in nationwide union-led protests in France on Tuesday against the government’s proposed reform of the pension system, while strike action disrupted many sectors including transport, education institutions, postal services and power supplies. Meanwhile, the government suffered a severe blow in its showdown with the unions after the forced resignation on Monday of the man regarded as the architect of the reforms, the High Commissioner for Pensions Jean-Paul Delevoye, for having failed to register as required by law ten of his present or recent outside professional activities. Now Mediapart can reveal yet another: his membership until 2017 of the London-based Brazzaville Foundation, which is in effect a propaganda arm for the strongman president of the Republic of the Congo.

Burkina Faso’s young Fula people caught between threat from jihadists and army

By François Hume Et Olivia Macadré
Mohamed, originally from the north of Burkina Faso, wanted to join the army but changed his mind after his family disagreed. © OM Mohamed, originally from the north of Burkina Faso, wanted to join the army but changed his mind after his family disagreed. © OM

In a country beset with spiralling jihadist violence, young people from Burkina Faso’s Fula community are the ideal recruits for armed groups keen to capitalise on the discontent stemming from extreme poverty and the frequent abuses committed by government troops in this part of Africa. And as François Hume and Olivia Macadré report, if they reject the jihadists’ call to arms, they are widely seen as guilty by association.

Unions attack lack of safety measures after suicides at France's national library

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The iconic national library building in Paris. The iconic national library building in Paris.

In the last ten years at least seven people have killed themselves by jumping from the terraces or plaza of a site at France's national library, the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand in Paris. Meanwhile on December 8th this year a girl fell from the iconic building and is now in a critical condition. Trade unions representing staff at the library say that not enough work has been done to make the site safe. Meanwhile management suggests such measures might be “ineffective” and say they also have to consider keeping the building's “architectural integrity”. Mathilde Goanec reports.

French judge accused of 'harassing' clerks and mocking defendants in court

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A senior judge at Versailles, west of Paris, has been accused of harassing clerks of the court and mocking both defendants and victims in her court, Mediapart has learnt. However, despite a lengthy letter of complaint from the clerks' trade union, the judge's bosses have just given her a warning about her future conduct. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan reports.

Judge-led French probe starts into award of 2022 football World Cup to Qatar

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Michel Platini and Nicolas Sarkozy at the Parc des Princes football stadium  in Paris for a PSG match on February 17th 2015. © Reuters Michel Platini and Nicolas Sarkozy at the Parc des Princes football stadium in Paris for a PSG match on February 17th 2015. © Reuters

In June 2019 Michel Platini, the former head of European football's governing body UEFA, was interviewed by police as a witness over the circumstances of the award of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar. Two former colleagues of Nicolas Sarkozy were also questioned about a lunch hosted for Qatar's crown prince by the French president in 2010, attended by Platini, just days before the controversial vote to give the tournament to the oil and gas-rich state. Now the French financial crimes prosecution unit has launched a judicial investigation into the affair over alleged “corruption”, Mediapart has learnt. Former French football star Platini has strongly denied any wrongdoing. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.

The sectors at stake for unions in French pension reform battle

Demonstrators march in Marseille against planned pension reforms, December 5th. © LF Demonstrators march in Marseille against planned pension reforms, December 5th. © LF

President Emmanuel Macron’s planned reform of the French pension system has run into massive union-led opposition, with a crippling general strike of mostly public sector workers last Thursday, when transport systems were paralysed and an estimated one million people demonstrated nationwide. While some sectors, notably the railways, remained affected this weekend, another national day of action is called for Tuesday. Union officials have declared that nothing less than a total withdrawal of the reform plans can end the dispute, raising the possibility of rolling strikes throughout December. The showdown will depend in part on what support unions can maintain in the key sectors of transport, schools, energy and healthcare.

Revealed: Sarkozy aide received Libyan funds in secret offshore account

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Left to right: newly elected Nicolas Sarkozy hosts Muammar Gaddafi in Paris; French-Lebanese intermediary Ziad Takieddine; Niolas Sarkozy's close allies Brice Hortefeux and Thierry Gaubert. © Reuters/Document Mediapart Left to right: newly elected Nicolas Sarkozy hosts Muammar Gaddafi in Paris; French-Lebanese intermediary Ziad Takieddine; Niolas Sarkozy's close allies Brice Hortefeux and Thierry Gaubert. © Reuters/Document Mediapart

An investigation by Mediapart has confirmed that a longstanding close aide to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy received 440,000 euros in a secret offshore account paid from Libyan funds one year before the 2007 French presidential elections, casting further suspicion that Sarkozy’s successful bid was partly financed by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The money was transferred by a shell company belonging to a French-Lebanese intermediary who is central to the funding allegations, through which transited several millions of euros from the Tripoli regime. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

How France's narrow focus on a military solution in Mali has led to stalemate in region

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A French soldier at Gao in Mali deep in reflection in front of the coffins of the 13 French troops killed in the country on November 25th 2019. © Reuters A French soldier at Gao in Mali deep in reflection in front of the coffins of the 13 French troops killed in the country on November 25th 2019. © Reuters

On Monday November 25th 13 members of the French military were killed when two helicopters crashed in Mali during France's ongoing military operations there. The grim news sparked debates back in France about the country's military involvement in the Sahel region of Africa. But as Mediapart's René Backmann writes, the legacy of France's colonial past and the remnants of its post-colonial approach to the continent known as 'Françafrique' suggest that President Emmanuel Macron's government will be unable to see that military combat against jihadism is not the only response that is needed to tackle the region's instability.

Doubts over real motive for French government probe of judge who fights corruption

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Éric Alt, the vice-president of the non-governmental anti-corruption organisation ANTICOR, is also a judge. He is now being investigated by a judicial watchdog over comments he made in his role as an ANTICOR activist about a corruption case in Corsica, and also his participation in another case involving a senior ally of President Emmanuel Macron. As Michel Deléan reports, questions are being raised about whether the French government has targeted Alt because of its displeasure over ANTICOR's role in high-profile cases.