Sarkocracy, or the perks and privileges of an ‘irreproachable' administration

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6: Flushed with rage

Cap Nègre © dr. Cap Nègre © dr.
The French first lady's family, the Bruni Tedeschis, own a large property (pictured right) overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Cap Nègre, on the western fringe of the French Riviera. During the summer holidays of 2008, the president found time to help them over a drainage problem.On August 16th, between his high-profile involvement in the Russia-Georgia crisis and his visit to Afghanistan, Sarkozy was invited to the AGM of the owners of all the properties on the Cap Nègre estate, the miniature peninsula upon which stands the property of his in-laws.

Lending his weight to the Bruni Tedeschis, the president spoke up in favour of the installation of mains sewage evacuation on the private residential estate - an issue that had divided opinion among the property owners for years. Three days later, on August 19th, Sarkozy organised a meeting at the Bruni-Tedeschis' villa. On the invitation list were the local prefect, Jacques Laisné, a director of the local government's planning and facilities department, the local mayor (and a member of Sarkozy's ruling UMP party), and representatives of the 50 or so Cap Nègre property owners. But despite all the lobbying, the quarrel over sewage treatment had still not been resolved by the following summer. That was when the prefect, Jacques Laisné, was removed from his job in the region by a decree signed by the French president. Laisné was given no new territorial post, and no reason was given for the sanction.

 

7: A comedy of sorts

Also in 2008, Sarkozy's close friend, the comic actor Christian Clavier (pictured with the president left), was targeted by independence campaigners on the island of Corsica, where he owns a sprawling property in a tourist complex at Porto-Vecchio. On August 30th, some 50 nationalist militants demonstrating against what they called the "spoliation" of local land, held a peaceful, one-hour picnic sit-in in the gardens of Clavier's holiday home.

Three days later, the senior police officer in charge of coordinating the island's security forces, Dominique Rossi, was dismissed from his job. The removal of this high-ranking police officer with some 30 years' professional experience caused outrage among police unions. The following year, the investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné revealed that, following the nationalist sit-in, Clavier's holiday home was protected day and night by two gendarmes, spread over three shifts per 24 hours, representing a monthly salary bill of 40,000 euros.

 

8: Wonderful windfall

In July 2008, the flamboyant French tycoon, one-time minister, multi-millionaire, bankrupt, actor and singer Bernard Tapie, who was an outspoken supporter for Nicolas sarkozy's presidential election campaign, was awarded 390 million euros of tax-payers' money in a private compensation settlement that ended a dispute with the former state-owned Crédit Lyonnais bank.

 © Mediapart © Mediapart
The case centred on the bank's sale, in the early 1990s, of Tapie's business assets, for which it was mandated by him. Also at this time, in 1993, the then state-owned Crédit Lyonnais, (now called LCL after it was privatized and bought by the Crédit Agricole), was at the centre of one of France's biggest-ever banking scandals when it became the subject of a massive public bail-out after going bankrupt through high-risk lending.

Tapie eventually launched a lawsuit against the bank which he accused of fraud after it paid him less than the true value of its sale of his controlling stake in sportswear and accessories company Adidas.

But in October 2007, five months after Nicolas Sarkozy's election, which former socialist minister Tapie had publicly supported, the state agency responsible for managing the liabilities of the Crédit Lyonnais, the Consortium de Réalisation (CDR), agreed with Tapie's representatives to settle the dispute through out-of-court arbitration. So it was that the following year, the CDR reached a deal with Tapie to pay him 390 million euros, of which 40 million euros were granted for ‘moral' (personal) damages.

Ten days later, French finance minister Christine Lagarde admitted that instructions had been given to support the arbitration process and remove the case from the courts, where in effect it was the French state, in the form of the CDR, that was being sued by Tapie.

In March 2011 Socialist Party Members of Parliament approached the public prosecutor with France's highest appeal court, notifying him that a recent parliamentary report on the settlement found evidence that the decision to move the case into private arbitration "had the aim of favouring personal interests to the detriment of public interest". A preliminary investigation has now been opened by the court's chief prosecutor to establish the circumstances of the arbitration settlement.

Meanwhile, the French national audit office, la Cour des comptes, has recommended that two senior officials should be sent before a disciplinary court for their role in the huge payout to Tapie. One of them, CDR head Jean-François Rocchi is suspected of having modified the records of the CDR board meeting that ratified the sum. He has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, as has Lagarde.

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This compilation of events highlighting the clannish excesses of the Sarkozy administrtauion is partly sourced from a book of reports on the subject edited by Mediapart - N'oubliez pas! Faits & gestes de la présidence Sarkozy ('Don't forget - the facts and acts of Sarkozy's presidency') - and published in France in January 2010 by Don Quichotte, currently available in French only.