Sex, blackmail and videotapes: extraordinary saga of a French mayor's plot against his own deputy

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Prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation after Mediapart revealed claims that the mayor of Saint-Étienne in south-east France, Gaël Perdriau, blackmailed his deputy mayor Gilles Artigues using a videotape of the latter with a male escort in an hotel room. The apparent aim of the blackmail was to ensure that Perdriau, who is from the right-wing Les Républicains (LR), maintained political control over his deputy Gilles Artigues, a devout Catholic and former Member of Parliament from the centre-right UDI party. After the initial revelations Mediapart then published extracts from recordings which revealed both Gaël Perdriau and his chief of staff threatening the deputy mayor over the sex tape. Both men, along with three others, have now been questioned in custody by detectives. Antton Rouget reports on an affair that has provoked widespread condemnation across the political spectrum.

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The affair of the video sex tape and blackmail at city hall in Saint-Étienne is turning into a national political scandal. Following the latest revelations by Mediapart in the case – which show that the right-wing mayor Gaël Perdriau, and his chief of staff Pierre Gauttieri, directly threatened the city's former centrist deputy mayor Gilles Artigues over a video of him in an hotel room with a gay escort filmed without his knowledge – the judicial investigation has gathered pace.