A Saudi army display of French-made CAESAR howitzers (left of picture), one of the most lethal artillery weapons in existence. © DR
An unprecedented leak of secret documents from France’s military intelligence agency, the DRM, has revealed the massive use of French-made weapons, like those also of the US, the UK and Germany, in the ongoing civil war in Yemen. The contents of the leaked documents are detailed here in three exclusive reports published simultaneously by Mediapart and its partner Disclose, a newly founded independent, not-for-profit online magazine of investigative journalism, which reports how these weapons have been used against the civilian population in a war that has wreaked what the United Nations describe as “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world”.
Éric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, standing on a Rafale jet fighter at the Le Bourget airshow near Paris in 2015. © Dassault
As India heads into tightly fought general elections on Thursday, outgoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become further engulfed in a suspected corruption scandal surrounding the sale by France to India of 36 Rafale fighter jets, built by French group Dassault Aviation, in a deal he signed in 2016. It emerged this weekend that, during negotiations over the contract, the French tax authorities extraordinarily wrote off a tax debt of more than 140 million euros owed by a French company belonging to Anil Ambani, an Indian businessman and friend of Modi’s, whose company was made industrial partner in the deal in questionable circumstances. Meanwhile, anti-corruption NGO Sherpa has submitted further information to the French public prosecution services over numerous “irregularities” that implicate the different parties in the contract, worth 7.7 billion euros.
Thomas Enders, left, and Louis Gallois were joint CEOs of Airbus between 2005 and 2007. © Reuters
Secret documents obtained by Mediapart and German publication Der Spiegel show for the first time how Airbus gave direct orders to an intermediary to hand out 9.5 million euros in commissions to help clinch the sale of its aircraft in Egypt. This deal is now being examined by France's fraud prosecution unit and British fraud detectives who are carrying out a major investigation into alleged corruption by the giant European aircraft manufacturer. Yann Philippin and Virginie Le Borgne report.
A Mediapart investigation can reveal the extent to which the publicly-owned French defence contractor Naval Group has been overseeing the renovation and modernisation of Saudi warships. This vital maintenance work has been taking place as the Saudi navy enforces a punishing blockade on Yemen as part of the ongoing conflict there. Meanwhile lawyers warn that any company that helps or supports the Arab coalition military effort in Yemen could potentially be seen as being complicit in possible war crimes. Eva Thiébaud and Thomas Clerget report.
Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault. © Reuters
Following Mediapart’s revelations about a vast tax-dodging scheme mounted by French luxury goods group Kering, whose brands include Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga, a Swiss parliamentarian has lodged a formal complaint with the public prosecution services in Lugano to demand they investigate the suspected fictitious tax domiciliation of Gucci executives in the canton of Ticino, which is estimated to have saved the group tens of millions of euros in taxes and social charges. Already in January, Kering, owned by French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, confirmed that an offical investigation in Italy has concluded the group evaded 1.4 billion euros in taxes that should have been paid in in the country. Yann Philippin reports.
Alexandre Benalla (left) testifying before a French senate commission. © Reuters
The long-running and still unfolding saga of the scandal surrounding Emmanuel Macron’s former close security aide Alexandre Benalla has prompted serious questions over the French president’s judgement about, and relationship with, his bodyguard, and also the secretive workings of the Élysée Palace and its senior staff. Those questions are heightened with documents revealed here by Mediapart, and the account of a former minister and his senior aide – who commented that Macron's entourage "didn’t protect him sufficiently” from a young man whose rise to prominence in the presidential office almost beggars belief.
'A fault that led to genocide': former French general Jean Varret. © Benît Collombat, de la cellule investigation de Radio France
Former army corps general Jean Varret is the most senior French officer yet to criticise France’s actions in the East African state of Rwanda in the years immediately preceding the 1994 genocide in the country. Interviewed as part of a joint investigation by Mediapart and Radio France into the events 25 years ago, Varret denounced the role and “faults” of a “military lobby” directing French policy, and how the warnings of the horror to come were ignored by his military and political masters.
Screen grab from the Facebook page of Sergei Munier, a follower of former soldier Victor Lenta, at a 'yellow vest' protest. © DR
When President Emmanuel Macron spoke to a group of journalists at the end of January this year he claimed there were “40,000 to 50,000 extreme militants” stirring up the 'yellow vest' protests, and he warned that violence was being orchestrated by political hardliners. Yet at the very same time the president's own intelligence services were producing an analysis which came to precisely the opposite conclusion. According to those security agencies, the ultra-right and ultra-left are “virtually non-existent” in the protest marches. Matthieu Suc reports on the president who appears to be ignoring or contradicting his own secret services.
President Emmanuel Macron on February 27th 2019. © Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes
Speaking during a recent debate with local councillors President Emmanuel Macron insisted: “No programme for a return of jihadists has today been drawn up.” Yet, as Mediapart can reveal, officials at the ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Justice have in fact been working since the autumn of 2018 on plans for the return of French jihadists held by Kurds in Syria. Matthieu Suc reports on the French government's change of heart.
Europe 1's studios on March 14th 2012. © Reuters
For nearly 20 years the privately-owned French radio station Europe 1 kept files and stored information on more than half a million listeners, sometimes with their details accompanied by insulting comments. This was detailed in a 2017 report by the French data watchdog the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) which has remained confidential but which has been seen by Mediapart. As a result of the report the radio station was given an official warning but the matter was never referred to the prosecution authorities, nor did Europe 1 have to pay a fine. Lou Syrah reports.