Tepid French public reaction to political scandals, and also to the romantic affairs of presidents, is often at odds with how the same events would be judged in other developed countries. In parallel to this, France has some of the toughest laws in Europe protecting personal privacy – and which are now cited in legal action taken against the magazine Closer by actress Julie Gayet following its revelations of her secret relationship with President François Hollande. Here, Philippe Riès argues that the privacy laws used by politicians is too often a tool to disguise the institutionalised excesses and corruption of a monarchic elite, served by a largely submissive media and reinforced by a puzzling public indifference that places democracy in danger.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has been dramatically placed under formal investigation for allegedly abusing the mental frailty of billionaire L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. It followed a second round of questioning by judges in Bordeaux investigating the Bettencourt affair, which involves claims of political corruption and abuse of power. The news has caused fury on the Right, however, who insist that it is a politically-motivated decision coming just days after the resignation of budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who is also facing an investigation.
The judge carrying out the high-profile investigation into the Bettencourt affair involving France's wealthiest woman, allegations of financial abuse and claims of political corruption at the highest levels, has ordered three allies of former President Nicolas Sarkozy to be questioned as witnesses. Judge Jean-Michel Gentil, who is said to be close to completing his mammoth task, is examining whether L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt's mental frailty was taken advantage of by those around her. But the publicity-shy judge is also investigating claims that the billionaire’s money was illegally used to fund Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. There are also allegations that the Elysée Palace tried to stop a proper investigation into the affair and that France's domestic spy chief himself became involved. As Michel Deléan reports, the judge is leaving no stone unturned in his inquiries.