Mystery of French minister's massive Air France pay-off

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Top civil servant and Armed Forces minister Florence Parly. © Reuters Top civil servant and Armed Forces minister Florence Parly. © Reuters

A French government minister's declarations of her past income have shed a stark light on the system of privileges enjoyed by an elite group of civil servants in France. That system allowed Florence Parly, a career civil servant who is now minister for the Armed Forces, to take up lucrative jobs outside the civil service without ever risking her security of employment. She even managed to negotiate a golden handshake from Air France worth around half a million euros. Laurent Mauduit reports.

A discrimination too far: French overseas consumers pay double for postage

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French citizens living overseas territories can pay between two and five times as much to send a parcel as their counterparts in metropolitan France. Now trade unions want to put an end to what they see as yet another “injustice” suffered by those who live in far-flung parts of France. Julien Sartre reports.

Why probe into key Macron ally Richard Ferrand may not yet be over

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End of the affair? Richard Ferrand, head of the Parliamentary group of Emmanuel Macron's LREM party. © Reuters End of the affair? Richard Ferrand, head of the Parliamentary group of Emmanuel Macron's LREM party. © Reuters

When prosecutors announced in October 2017 that they were not pursuing an investigation into the financial allegations surrounding Richard Ferrand, who is now president of Emmanuel Macron's political party at the National Assembly, it seemed the end of the matter. However, an analysis of the preliminary investigation report by Mediapart shows that from start to finish Ferrand looked after his partner's interests in a property deal with a mutual health firm, even though he was managing director of that company at the time. Now anti-corruption groups are calling for an independent judge to re-open the case and investigate. Mathilde Mathieu reports.

Defending the indefensible: the French state's justification of press censorship in the Bettencourt affair

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In July 2013, Mediapart was ordered by a French court to remove all its published articles that cited secret tape recordings made by the butler of Liliane Bettencourt which provided evidence of how the late heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics giant, suffering from dementia, was despoiled of part of her wealth by her close entourage. The tapes were at the centre of what became known as the Bettencourt affair and led to the convictions of several of those involved in the scam. Yet the censorship of the contents of the recordings remains, and Mediapart has challenged the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel analyses here the French state’s submission to the ECHR in defence of the censorship, and highlights its absurd and contradictory attempt to justify the violation of the right to know.

How Paris trial shone light on violent, hate-filled world of Merah family

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Zoulikha Aziri, the mother of Mohamed and Kader Merah, on the first day of the trial into the 2012 murders at Toulouse and Montauban. © REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer Zoulikha Aziri, the mother of Mohamed and Kader Merah, on the first day of the trial into the 2012 murders at Toulouse and Montauban. © REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

On Thursday November 2nd, 2017, Abdelkader 'Kader' Merah was cleared of being an accomplice to his brother Mohamed's 2012 murder of three soldiers and four Jewish civilians, including three children, in south-west France, but found guilty of being part of a terrorist conspiracy. Mediapart examines what the trial in Paris revealed about the family from which both men came. As Matthieu Suc reports, it was a family characterised by casual, routine violence and hatred, against a backdrop of anti-Semitism and radical Islam.

Tensions as cash-strapped Socialist Party plans to shed more than half its staff

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For sale: the Socialist Party's headquarters at rue de Solférino in Paris. © Reuters For sale: the Socialist Party's headquarters at rue de Solférino in Paris. © Reuters

The Socialist Party performed miserably in the French presidential elections and poorly in the subsequent Parliamentary elections, and is  so short of money it is selling off its party headquarters at rue de Solférino in Paris. It has now also just announced a redundancy plan which will see the number of staff it employs in Paris cut from 97 to just 38 by the spring of 2018. Employees, meanwhile, are complaining about the likely redundancy terms. Christophe Gueugneau reports.

The hidden tragedy of migrants crossing north through Africa

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French medics treating a migrant who survived kidnapping in Libya © Aurélien Sigwalt French medics treating a migrant who survived kidnapping in Libya © Aurélien Sigwalt

Behind the fate of thousands of migrants who have died while attempting to cross by sea to Europe lies the even greater tragedy of those who perish on the overland journey through Africa to reach the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, according to estimates of UN agency the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Those who survive the trying conditions of the clandestine routes north from sub-Saharan countries face further danger in Libya, where many are herded into detention centres amid appalling conditions, while others fall victim to kidnappers. Carine Fouteau reports.

How Volkswagen stashed billions of euros in Luxembourg scheme

By and Martin Hesse, Simon Hage (Der Spiegel) et Blaz Zgaga
Volkswagen supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch. © Reuters Volkswagen supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch. © Reuters

Between 2014 and 2016, German carmaker Volkswagen placed 5.8 billion euros into a financial structure, run by a staff of five, it registered in Luxembourg, and which paid just 1.7 million euros in taxes on the sum. It is one example of an elaborate system of ‘tax optimisation’ created by the giant group in 2012, despite assurances by its supervisory board chairman, Hans Dieter Pötsch, when he was financial director, that “we have never played such games”. Yann Philippin, Martin Hesse, Simon Hage and Blaz Zgaga report.

Paris court finds Equatorial Guinea vice-president guilty of money laundering

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A French court on Friday handed Teodorin Obiang, vice-president of Equatorial Guinea and son of the country’s president, a three-year suspended prison sentence and a suspended fine of 30 million euros after he was found guilty in absentia of money laundering wealth embezzled from the African state’s public funds. The presiding magistrates, who in their ruling underlined the initial reticence of French prosecutors to bring Obiang to trial,  also ordered the confiscation of his assets in France, estimated to be worth 150 million euros, including a vast Paris townhouse and a fleet of luxurious cars. Michel Deléan reports.

Libyan funding of Sarkozy election campaign: a damning police report

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Nicolas Sarkozy and his right-hand man Claude Guéant, March 27th, 2012. © Reuters Nicolas Sarkozy and his right-hand man Claude Guéant, March 27th, 2012. © Reuters

Police officers from France's anti-corruption squad, the OCLCIFF, have produced a preliminary and damning report into the claims that the Libyan regime under Muammar Gaddafi funded the 2007 presidential election campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy. It raises questions about the role of Éric Woerth who at the time was treasurer of Sarkozy's campaign, later became a minister and is now president of the finance committee at the National Assembly. Meanwhile judges have ordered the seizure of properties belonging to Sarkozy's former chief-of-staff and right-hand man, Claude Guéant. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

President Macron plays waiting game in long-awaited TV interview

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In his first set-piece television interview since becoming France's president in May, Emmanuel Macron was in unrepentant mood, refusing to apologise over a string of controversial remarks which he now claims have been misunderstood. Speaking on the privately-owned TF1 television station, the centrist president also said the country would have to wait for up to two years for his reforms to take effect. Hubert Huertas analyses President Macron's much-anticipated television appearance.

Airbus's 80 million-euro golden parachute to former executive

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Jean-Paul Gut, director of EADS International and group strategy until June 2007. © dr Jean-Paul Gut, director of EADS International and group strategy until June 2007. © dr

The former commercial director of EADS – now Airbus – Jean-Paul Gut, who set up the commercial and marketing system that is now at the centre of parallel corruption investigations by French and British police, received a 'golden parachute' of around 80 million euros, it can be revealed. A joint investigation by Mediapart and German weekly Der Spiegel also shows that the European aerospace group was willing to continue using Gut as a highly-paid consultant even after he left his lucrative post in 2007.

Why nuclear weapons must be abolished

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a missile launch in a photo issued on September 16, 2017, by that country's official news agency. © KCNA North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a missile launch in a photo issued on September 16, 2017, by that country's official news agency. © KCNA

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of hundreds of NGOs from dozens of countries, puts in stark relief the irresponsibility of those states – including France – who base their security on dissuasion by terror. Mediapart’s publishing editor and co-founder Edwy Plenel argues that far from keeping the peace, nuclear weapons spread the risk of a terrible catastrophe, as the current Korean crisis shows.

The bitter infighting behind the election of UNESCO's new director general

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Audrey Azouley at UNESCO's Paris headquarters, October 13th 2017. © Reuters Audrey Azouley at UNESCO's Paris headquarters, October 13th 2017. © Reuters

Former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay was elected as the new director general of UNESCO on Friday, in a narrow victory over her Qatari rival Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari. Azoulay’s election to the top post at the UN science, education and culture agency was the result of a profound divide among its Arab member states, and served a severe blow to Qatar’s ambitions of influence on the world stage. René Backmann witnessed first-hand the tensions during the six rounds of voting, which at one point almost ended in a fist fight, and in this report of the events he analyses the tough tasks ahead for Azoulay amid the decision by the US and Israel to quit the organisation.

Eyes turn to the young in New Caledonia self-rule vote

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Pro-independence militant Darewa Dianou: “They killed my father and, afterwards, they come and tell us that they will de-colonise us?" © ES Pro-independence militant Darewa Dianou: “They killed my father and, afterwards, they come and tell us that they will de-colonise us?" © ES

The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, which became a French colony in 1853, will hold a referendum next year on the proposition of self-rule. The referendum is the result of 30 years of a political process to ease tensions between pro-independence militants from the indigenous Kanak population, which make up about 45% of the archipelago’s 270,000 inhabitants, and ethnic Europeans. A key issue of the referendum will be the extent of involvement of the young generation, and in particular young Kanaks who are the worst affected by high unemployment and educational failure. Ellen Salvi reports from New Caledonia.