Is the fight against corruption in France faltering?


In the last week four cases of alleged corruption, fraud, abuse of position or negligence involving prominent figures in French society have ended with no one being punished. In two cases the defendants were acquitted, in another no sentence was passed, while in the investigation concerning former government minister and current head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, the prosecution said the case should be dropped. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan considers whether the French justice system is giving way when faced with certain high-profile political and financial cases – and if so, why.

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On the surface they are four criminal investigations that have nothing to do with one another. In each one the judges and lawyers of the French justice system have sifted through the evidence and applied the law as they see fit, and there is no question here of seeking to re-try those cases in their place. Yet the judicial handling of the affairs involving former President Nicolas Sarkozy's advisor turned banker François Pérol, former centrist minister André Santini, film director and socialist government minister Yamina Benguigui, and former minister and current managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, says a great deal about the French justice system and its foibles. In particular it illustrates the fact that some judges have not grasped the full extent of the real cost of corruption, whether in financial, social or political terms.