Investigations

  • Phone taps reveal Platini counted on Macron for help with legal woes after 'discreet' meeting

     © AFP © AFP

    French police phone tap transcripts seen by Mediapart reveal that former football star Michel Platini, who served for eight years as head of the sport’s European governing body UEFA, and who is at the centre of separate investigations in France and Switzerland into corruption and fraud, claimed he had been offered “help” with his legal situation by President Emmanuel Macron. In March 2018, Platini met with the French president at the Élysée Palace when, according to a French journalist and friend of the former France international who was also present, his legal affairs were discussed. The Élysée, meanwhile, has denied any interference with the justice system.   

  • Phone taps that sparked probe into France's former top anti-corruption prosecutor

    Éliane Houlette, head of the financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet national financier (PNF) from its creation in 2013 to 2019. © LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP Éliane Houlette, head of the financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet national financier (PNF) from its creation in 2013 to 2019. © LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP

    Mediapart can reveal the contents of phone taps and two reports by gendarmes that led to serious questions over the conduct of Éliane Houlette, then head of France's anti-corruption prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF). Those reports led to the Paris prosecutor calling for a preliminary investigation into allegations of “influence peddling”, “collusion” and “breach of confidentiality” concerning Éliane Houlette, who stood down as head of the PNF in June 2019 having been its boss since its creation in 2013. However, though prosecutors eventually opened a preliminary probe in September 2019 for “breach of confidentiality” in an ongoing investigation, progress in this potentially explosive case seems to have ground to a halt. Fabrice Arfi, Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.

  • How Macron's chief of staff was cleared over probe after president intervened

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    The statement written by President Emmanuel Macron on behalf of his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler. © Document Mediapart The statement written by President Emmanuel Macron on behalf of his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler. © Document Mediapart

    President Emmanuel Macron intervened personally in an investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, Mediapart can reveal. In the summer of 2019 a statement from the president was sent to France's financial crimes prosecution unit clearing Kohler's name after detectives investigating the case had written a damning report. Following President Macron's intervention, a second police report was written which reached very different conclusions. A month later, the whole case was dropped. Martine Orange investigates a move by the president which appears to breach the doctrine of the separation of powers between the government and the judicial system.

  • 'I'm suffocating': the final words of Cédric Chouviat, arrested by French police

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    Cédric Chouviat, still with his helmet on, held on the ground by three police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart Cédric Chouviat, still with his helmet on, held on the ground by three police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart

    On January 3rd 2020 deliveryman Cédric Chouviat, aged 42, was stopped on his scooter as part of a routine roadside police check in Paris, arrested, put in a chokehold then held face down on the pavement. His own mobile phone reveals that seven times he repeated the words “I'm suffocating” before falling unconscious and later dying. The episode inevitably has echoes of the American George Floyd whose last words when being held down by a police officer in Minneapolis were “I can't breathe”.  These revelations about the final words of Cédric Chouviat, contained in a report seen by both Mediapart and Le Monde, will put even greater pressure on the authorities to shed light on the nature of the arrest and the controversial techniques used by the French police to restrain the father-of-five. Pascale Pascariello reports.

  • Vittel owners Nestlé face legal action over 'illegal' water boreholes in France

    By Alexander Abdelilah and Robert Schmidt
     © AFP © AFP

    The Swiss multinational Nestlé, which owns the Vittel and Contrex brands, is facing a mounting series of problems in the Vosges département or county in north-east France where it obtains its supplies for those mineral waters. The French state has recently withdrawn its support for a lengthy water pipeline in the area, while a local councillor with family links to the Swiss company faces trial over an alleged conflict of interests. Now Mediapart has learnt that consumer and environmental groups are taking legal action against Nestlé for extracting water from certain boreholes without authorisation, and have accused the authorities of favouring the giant corporation over the needs of local people. Alexander Abdelilah and Robert Schmidt report.

  • 'Thank you Nasser for your gift': when FIFA secretary general found luxury watch in his Qatar hotel room

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    FIFA number two was gifted with free use of a villa in Sardinia, and a gold Cartier watch. FIFA number two was gifted with free use of a villa in Sardinia, and a gold Cartier watch.

    Shortly after a committee of world football governing body FIFA in February 2015 controversially recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be played in winter, the then FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke secretly met with Qatari businessman Nasser al-Khelaifi, president of French football club PSG and chairman of beIN Sports, who was thanked by Valcke hours later for a gift of a watch worth 40,000 euros, according to phone text messages revealed here by Mediapart. Al-Khelaifi denies he was behind the gift. Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, have dropped their probe of the two men over suspected bribery, which included Valcke’s free use of a luxurious villa bought by al-Khelaifi in Sardinia. Yann Philippin reports.

  • Revealed: the vile racist exchanges of French police officers on WhatsApp

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    France's national police force: while officals talk of a few 'rotten apples' others see systemic racism. © AFP/Valery Hache France's national police force: while officals talk of a few 'rotten apples' others see systemic racism. © AFP/Valery Hache

    Amid a mounting debate over accusations of systemic racism within France’s police force, this joint investigation by Mediapart and ARTE Radio reveals the vile exchanges between police officers on a WhatsApp chat group, in which they talk of “enemies of the white race” and of “niggers”, describe women as “whores”, Jews as “sons of bitches” who “govern the country”, and gay men as “poofs”. Camille Polloni reports on a case that came to light only due to the courage of one of their black colleagues and how, five months after his formal complaint, the men were still in their posts.

  • The Wuhan virus research lab and the speculation over its military use

    By Jacques Massey
    Then Chinese president Hu Jintao and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Beijing, October 26th 2006. © AFP Then Chinese president Hu Jintao and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Beijing, October 26th 2006. © AFP

    The former head of British foreign intelligence agency MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, this week cited a scientific report suggesting the Covid-19 virus was man-made and that the pandemic was caused by its accidental leakage from a high-security laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a claim swiftly denied by the director of the site. The French-designed lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, inaugurated in 2017, was the result of a cooperation agreement signed between France and China for research into emerging diseases. In this second report into the history of the lab, Jacques Massey details how the agreement became a controversial issue within France’s government and intelligence agencies, notably because of the involvement of the Chinese military in scientific research, and the wider background of the accident-prone development of biological weapons.

  • The strange saga of how France helped build Wuhan's top-security virus lab

    By and Jacques Massey
    French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve during the inauguration of the laboratory at Wuhan, February 23rd 2017. © AFP/Johannes Eisele French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve during the inauguration of the laboratory at Wuhan, February 23rd 2017. © AFP/Johannes Eisele

    The maximum-level biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the first of its kind to be built in China, and has been the centre of huge speculation since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which originated in that city. The laboratory, which is equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) including dangerous viruses such as Ebola, was built with the help of French experts and under the guidance of French billionaire businessman Alain Mérieux, despite strong objections by health and defence officials in Paris. Since the laboratory's inauguration by prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve in 2017, however, France has had no supervisory role in the running of the facility and planned cooperation between French researchers and the laboratory has come to a grinding halt. Karl Laske and Jacques Massey report.

  • The French equestrian world's blinkered approach to child sex abuse

    By Quentin Müller, Margaux Solinas
    The Jardy equestrian centre near Paris, June 2014. © Christophe Bricot / DPPI via AFP The Jardy equestrian centre near Paris, June 2014. © Christophe Bricot / DPPI via AFP

    After decades of silence, the victims of child sex abuse in France's equestrian world are finally telling their stories. In some cases the offenders' suspect behaviour was known to other members of the close-knit horse riding and racing community, who nonetheless chose to say nothing. Meanwhile the president of the France's main riding federation has denied claims that he turned a blind eye to what was going on in the industry. Quentin Müller and Margaux Solinas report.