Probe launched into Russian oligarch contract linked to Élysée security aide

Alexandre Benalla and, just behind him, Vincent Crase in Paris on May 1st 2018 . © Reuters Alexandre Benalla and, just behind him, Vincent Crase in Paris on May 1st 2018 . © Reuters

France's national fraud prosecution unit has opened an investigation for “corruption” over a French firm's security contract signed with Russian oligarch Iskander Makhmudov, and negotiated by Alexandre Benalla while the latter was a security aide at the Élysée. Mediapart first revealed details of this contract, which involves a company run by Benalla's friend Vincent Crase, back in December. In a separate development the French prime minister's head of security has resigned after claims that her flat was used to host a bail-breaching meeting between Benalla and Crase that was secretly recorded in July 2018. She denies any wrong doing. Fabrice Arfi, Antton Rouget and Marine Turchi report.

How French PM's office sparked probe into Mediapart's sources in security aide affair

President Emmanuel Macron and prime minister Édouard Philippe in Paris in March 2018. © Reuters President Emmanuel Macron and prime minister Édouard Philippe in Paris in March 2018. © Reuters

It was an intervention from the office of France's prime minister Édouard Philippe which caused the opening of an investigation into the source of secret recordings involving a former presidential aide, Mediapart can reveal. This investigation then led to an attempt by prosecutors to search Mediapart's office – which Mediapart prevented, citing laws designed to protect its sources. The prosecution authorities, meanwhile, are remaining silent about the information they received which caused them to start the probe. Fabrice Arfi, Antton Rouget, Matthieu Suc and Marine Turchi report.

Why France's planned 'anti-rioter' law threatens citizens not criminals

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Lawyers who oppsoe the bill:left to right, Henri Leclerc, Jean-Pierre Mignard and Patrice Spinosi. © Reuters Lawyers who oppsoe the bill:left to right, Henri Leclerc, Jean-Pierre Mignard and Patrice Spinosi. © Reuters

Despite strong criticism, including from inside the ranks of the ruling La République en Marche party, the French government's so-called 'anti-rioters' bill was due to be voted through by members of the National Assembly on Tuesday February 5th. Mediapart spoke to a number of prominent lawyers who are well-known defenders of civil liberties, including a supporter of President Emmanuel Macron, who have expressed their concern about yet another piece of repressive law and order legislation. Ellen Salvi reports.

Mediapart blocks prosecutors' bid to search offices over Macron security aide affair

Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla. © Reuters Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla. © Reuters

Mediapart refused a highly unusual attempt by prosecutors in Paris on Monday morning to search its editorial offices as part of an  investigation that notably cites a breach of the personal privacy of Alexandre Benalla, the disgraced controversial former security aide to President Emmanuel Macron. He was sacked and placed under formal investigation last summer after video footage emerged of him and ruling LREM party security manager Vincent Crase using violence on protestors during demonstrations in Paris on May 1st. The new prosecution services’ probe follows Mediapart's revelations last week of extracts from a compromising conversation between Benalla and Crase, who met in violation of their conditional bail, which raise wider questions over Benalla’s actions while employed by the presidency, and also his relationship with the president. Mediapart exercised its legal right to refuse the raid on the grounds of protecting the identity of its sources.

Libyan funding affair: Nicolas Sarkozy's final defeat against Mediapart

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Left to right: the French president's chief aide Claude Guéant, Muammar Gaddafi and Nicolas Sarkozy inTripoli in 2007. © Reuters Left to right: the French president's chief aide Claude Guéant, Muammar Gaddafi and Nicolas Sarkozy inTripoli in 2007. © Reuters

France's highest appeal court, the Cour de Cassation, has rejected an appeal by former president Nicolas Sarkozy in a case against Mediapart relating to the authenticity of a key document showing he was promised Libyan funding for his 2007 election campaign. The judgement, published on Wednesday January 30th, means that the former president can no longer evade the election funding scandal revealed by this site, says Mediapart's publishing editor Edwy Plenel.

Macron security aide affair: the secret recordings that change everything

Alexandre Benalla and President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Normandy April 12th 2018. © Reuters Alexandre Benalla and President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Normandy April 12th 2018. © Reuters

An investigation by Mediapart sheds dramatic new light on the affair involving Alexandre Benalla, who was a security aide to President Emmanuel Macron until he was sacked when video footage emerged showing that he had used violence against protestors at a demonstration. In particular recordings of Benalla talking to the former head of security for the ruling LREM party, Vincent Crase, who also lost his job over the scandal, reveal details about a secret meeting that breached a judicial control order, about a security contract with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, and Benalla's ongoing communications with President Macron. Fabrice Arfi, Antton Rouget and Marine Turchi report.

The secret payments made via Panama to former Gucci boss

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The former CEO of Gucci, Patrizio Di Marco, with his wife Frida Giannini. © Reuters The former CEO of Gucci, Patrizio Di Marco, with his wife Frida Giannini. © Reuters

The leading French luxury goods company Kering, owned by the ultra wealthy Pinault family, saved 39 million euros in tax by paying the former boss of its subsidiary Gucci via a company in Panama, according to documents obtained by Mediapart and shared with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC). The French company also lied about its tax avoidance schemes to two separate investigations carried out by the French Senate. Yann Philippin investigates.

Feared and revered: US views on France’s ‘yellow vests’

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Yellow vest protestors on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris, November 2018. © Reuters Yellow vest protestors on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris, November 2018. © Reuters

The two-month-long ‘gilets jaunes’, or ‘yellow vest’, movement in France, protesting the fall in living standards for low- and middle-income earners and against the powers of the country’s social and political elite, continues largely unabated. It has attracted worldwide attention, and not least in the United States, where the Left sees it as an echo of the Occupy Wall Street movement, where also supporters of President Donald Trump have hi-jacked it as a new symbol of protest against the liberal establishment, and where the latter interpret it as a devil of populism. Mediapart’s US correspondent Mathieu Magnaudeix reports from New York on the confused reactions across the Atlantic to the largely misunderstood revolt in France.

Football Leaks: lawyer reveals Rui Pinto is whistleblower “John”

By Rafael Buschmann, Christoph Winterbach Et Michael Wulzinger (Der Spiegel)
Paris-based lawyer William Bourdon. © Reuters Paris-based lawyer William Bourdon. © Reuters

William Bourdon, the lawyer representing Rui Pinto, who was arrested last week in Hungary at the demand of the Portuguese authorities, has confirmed that his client is “John”, the alias given to the key source behind the Football Leaks revelations that have rocked the world of professional football. The more than 70 million Football Leaks documents were the starting point for two series of investigations published by Mediapart and its partners in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media consortium, and which have revealed widespread corruption and fraud in the shadows of the “beautiful game”. In this in-depth interview with the EIC, Bourdon offers further detail about Pinto’s actions, and dismisses his presentation by the Portuguese media “simply as a hacker, whereas he is a significant whistleblower”.

Dear Mr President: when letters to François Hollande announced France's current social unrest

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A photomontage sent to François Hollande: "Here lies my salary, born at the beginning of the month and already dead on the 10th." © DR A photomontage sent to François Hollande: "Here lies my salary, born at the beginning of the month and already dead on the 10th." © DR

During his 2012-2017 term in office, France’s socialist president François Hollande received a total of about one million letters and emails from members of the public, several thousands of which have been studied by political sciences lecturers Michel Offerlé and Julien Fretel. In this interview, Michel Offerlé explains that while the correspondence contained a large number of individual demands for help, complaints over financial difficulties and taxes, and insults about the head of state’s disconnection with the people, they in part collectively represent the social group that has erupted into the ‘yellow vest’ protest movement over falling standards of living which is shaking the current presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

How Ronaldo escaped lightly with tax fraud sentence

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Cristiano Ronaldo arriving at court in Madrid, January22nd, with his fiancee Georgina Rodriguez. © Reuters Cristiano Ronaldo arriving at court in Madrid, January22nd, with his fiancee Georgina Rodriguez. © Reuters

Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was on Tuesday ordered to pay an 18.8 million-euro fine by a Madrid court and was handed a 23-month suspended jail sentence after admitting tax fraud amounting to almost 15 million euros between 2011 and 2014. The case followed the Football Leaks revelations published in December 2016 by Mediapart and its partners in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media consortium. But the former Real Madrid striker, whose wealth is estimated at more than 200 million euros, in fact escaped a far heavier sentence with the falsification of a document concerning his offshore payments on image rights, which Mediapart reveals here.  

French riot police deploy assault rifles at 'yellow vest' demonstrations

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CRS riot police with HKG36 assault rifles in central Paris on January 12th. © DR CRS riot police with HKG36 assault rifles in central Paris on January 12th. © DR

A document obtained by Mediapart reveals that the national director of France’s CRS riot police ordered the deployment of Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles during nationwide demonstrations on January 12th by the ‘yellow vest’ movement. The militarisation of policing tactics during the recurrent demonstrations, in protest over falling living standards for low- and middle-income earners, includes an almost systematic use of rubber bullets and stun grenades that have caused numerous serious injuries. Karl Laske reports on the arsenal employed and the dramatic consequences of the escalating violence.

French protests: the urgent need to ban use of maiming 'crowd control' weapons

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A 'yellow vest' protestor lies injured in Paris, January 12th 2019. © Reuters A 'yellow vest' protestor lies injured in Paris, January 12th 2019. © Reuters

France’s ‘yellow vest’ protestors were back on the streets this weekend, as their movement calling for better living standards for low- and middle-income earners held its tenth nationwide day of action. While some demonstrations have been marred by violence from extremist groups, there is mounting criticism of aggressive police tactics. These notably include the widespread and often indiscriminate use of rubber bullets and stun grenades that have caused, according to several estimations, around 100 serious and life-changing injuries to protestors and bystanders. Mediapart co-editor Carine Fouteau argues here why these highly dangerous weapons, which France is one of very few countries to deploy in such situations, should be immediately banned from crowd-control policing.

Football Leaks: arrested whistleblower Rui Pinto agreed to help French and Swiss prosecutors

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Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower linked to the Football Leaks revelations, was released on conditional bail by a Hungarian court on Friday after his arrest following an extradition demand issued by the Portuguese authorities. Pinto, 30, who is to fight the extradition demand, is accused of attempted extortion and data theft. Mediapart can confirm that he is cooperating with French prosecution services and has agreed to help Swiss prosecutors in separate investigations into suspected tax evasion and corruption revealed by the Football Leaks documents.

Carlos Ghosn: the contrast between severity in Japan and impunity in France

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The case of the arrest and continued detention in Japan of Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct has revealed the severity of the Japanese judicial system, which again denied him bail at a hearing in Tokyo this week. But it has also illustrated the situation of impunity granted in France to numerous high-placed individuals like Ghosn, writes Mediapart co-founder Laurent Mauduit in this opinion article. For while it now appears that the French government is finally moving towards his replacement as head of the French carmaker, economy and finance minister Bruno Le Maire has until now done his utmost to protect Ghosn, even declaring that there was ‘nothing in particular to report’ on his tax situation in France, when in fact the boss of one of France's biggest industrial corporations has been a tax resident in the Netherlands since 2012.