The conversations of two African heads of state have been eavesdropped by French police during a major investigation into alleged corruption by a French businessman. The transcripts of the phone-tapped conversations involving Mali's president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, known as IBK, and Gabon's Ali Bongo reveal a vast system of gifts and favours apparently provided by controversial Corsican businessman Michel Tomi, who has been dubbed the “godfather to the godfathers”. As far as the judges investigating the case are concerned, the phone taps reveal corruption. And for French president François Hollande the content of the transcripts involving IBK will come as a devastating and embarrassing diplomatic blow. For much of Hollande's African policy has been based on the symbolic success of his old socialist friend IBK, who was voted in as president of Mali just months after Paris sent in troops to end an Islamic insurgency there. IBK's election was supposed to usher in a fresh start for Mali and a new era of French diplomacy in Africa. That narrative now looks to be in ruins. Fabrice Arfi, Ellen Salvi, Lénaïg Bredoux and Thomas Cantaloube report.
by Lénaïg Bredoux, Thomas Cantaloube, Fabrice Arfi and Ellen Salvi
Behind the acute embarrassment caused for President François Hollande by recent revelations of his relationship with the actress Julie Gayet lies a disturbing backdrop. The pair met regularly in an apartment lent to them by Gayet’s friend and fellow actress Emmanuelle Hauck, who had close links with a number of individuals connected to organised crime. Mediapart has gained access to judicial documents that further underline the very serious risks run by Hollande, wittingly or unwittingly, during his secret liaison, and which former presidential security officers describe as a major failure by his protection services.
What may have at first seemed like a simple affair of the heart on the part of President François Hollande looks set to take on a political dimension. Mediapart can reveal that the flat where Hollande is reported to meet actress Julie Gayet has connections with a convicted criminal suspected of links to Corsican organised crime. This immediately raises questions of what France's 'top cop', interior minister Manuel Valls, knew about the affair. Was he unaware of the flat's links to a criminal? Or did an amorous president fall into a political trap?