Investigations

  • Judges step up hunt for the phantom figure behind the Karachi Affair

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    El Assir El Assir

    A key suspect in a major investigation into the French illegal political funding scandal known as the ‘Karachi Affair’ is also wanted for suspected money laundering by police in Spain, where he had close links with former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar and King Juan Carlos, Mediapart can reveal. Companies belonging to Abdul Rahman Al Assir (pictured), a Lebanese-born businessman and arms intermediary, received millions of euros in commissions from French weapons sales that are at the heart of corruption scam allegations implicating President Sarkozy and his close entourage. Despite an international arrest warrant issued against him, El Assir is still on the run. Mediapart, meanwhile, tracked him down in Geneva. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report on the phantom witness that some are hoping will remain just so.

  • The British thriller writer caught in the plot of the Karachi affair

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    P. Kemp © dr P. Kemp © dr

    In a bizarre twist to ongoing French judicial investigations into the suspected high-level political corruption and funding scam known as the ‘Karachi affair’, a British thriller writer has now entered the complex plot following a police raid on the offices of France’s state-owned naval defence group, the DCNS. Mediapart has learnt how the company hired Percy Kemp (pictured), dubbed by the media in France as “a true heir to John Le Carré or Graham Greene”, to write a secret report on the murders of 11 French engineers in Karachi in 2002, and which contradicted official claims by Paris and Islamabad that al-Qaeda was responsible. Fabrice Arfi reports.

  • The riddle of how French nuclear giant Areva blew 2 bln euros in mining meltdown

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    When French publicly-owned nuclear giant Areva bought Canadian mining company UraMin in 2007, it boasted of having secured major uranium deposits in Africa. But five years on, no uranium has ever been mined there, and Areva has had to write off nearly 2 billion euros in its accounts. Here, Martine Orange investigates the roots of the fiasco and attempts to cover up what promises to become a major industrial scandal, along with the intrigue surrounding the company's sacked and furious CEO Anne Lauvergeon (pictured).

  • French ruling UMP party chief in 4 million-euro tax gift probe

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    Extrait de la lettre de Jean-François Copé, ministre du budget. Extrait de la lettre de Jean-François Copé, ministre du budget.

    Jean-François Copé, leader of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, is at the centre of a police investigation into the annulment, when he was budget minister, of a tax back payment of 6.2 million-euros demanded from a wealthy businessman connected to two key suspects in the so-called ‘Karachigate' illegal political funding affair. The tax adjustment, which was reduced by 4 million euros (document above), came after arms dealer Ziad Takieddine raised the case with Copé on the behest of Nicolas Bazire, managing director of luxury goods firm LVMH, according to a statement given to police by Takieddine's British former wife, Nicola Johnson. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • New evidence implicates President Sarkozy in 'Karachigate' deals

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    Fresh evidence has emerged implicating Nicolas Sarkozy's involvement in two controversial 1994 arms deals that lie at the centre of an investigation into suspected illegal political party financing via French weapons sales abroad. Mediapart has obtained access to an official document referring to Sarkozy's approval, when he was budget minister, of financial arrangements surrounding the sale to Saudi Arabia of three French frigates, a deal in which two French-imposed intermediaries were paid the equivalent of more than 200 million euros. Meanwhile, a key witnessin the investigation has said the then-budget minister had "necessarily" given his authorisation for the creation of a Luxembourg-based company set up to handle the payment of commissions paid out in a separate, simultaneous sale of French submarines to Pakistan.Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • French political funding scandal reveals a tale of two 'Titty's

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    Le bar Nibar, à Nilo. © (dr) Le bar Nibar, à Nilo. © (dr)

    Two Paris judges leading an investigation into suspected illegal political party financing via official French weapons sales abroad are now focusing their enquiries on the financial activities in Colombia of Thierry Gaubert, a longstanding close friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Gaubert, a formal suspect in the political funding scam and a former aide to Sarkozy before he became president, used secret off-shore accounts to build a luxurious mansion in the Colombian mountains, on a guarded estate shared by an associate, Jean-Philippe Couzi. In this second exclusive report from Colombia, Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske reveal how Colombian police targeted Gaubert, as well as Couzi, for suspected money laundering, and the bizarre story of how the pair set up two bars by the names of ‘Nibar' (pictured) and ‘Nichon', the French equivalents of ‘Titty' and ‘Tit'.

  • The Sarkozy aide and his secretly-funded Colombian mansion

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    Le balcon de la maison Gaubert.  © dr Le balcon de la maison Gaubert. © dr

    Thierry Gaubert, a longstanding friend and aide of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was in September placed under formal investigation - one step short of being charged - for "aiding and abetting the misuse of company assets" over his role in a suspected political funding scam connected to French weapons sales abroad. In this exclusive report, Mediapart reveals how Gaubert built himself a luxurious, sprawling property (pictured) in Colombia, using funds hidden abroad, where his guest book resembles a list from Who's Who in France. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report from Nilo, Colombia.

  • L'Oréal heiress ordered to pay 77.7 million euros after tax scam probe

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    L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has been ordered to pay almost 78 million euros in tax penalties and back payments after hiding part of her estimated 16-billion euro fortune from the French tax authorities, Mediapart can reveal.Fabrice ArfiandMichel Deléan present the details of this record claim by tax inspectors, which followed Mediapart's public exposure of conversations between the billionaire and her senior advisors involving a complex web of secret accounts and property abroad.

  • Exclusive: L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt's secret tax-dodging accounts and mystery payments

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    This article has been censored

    A ruling by the Versailles court of appeal on July 4th 2013 has ordered that Mediapart must remove from its website all articles which contain extracts from the so-called ‘butler tapes’ at the heart of the Bettencourt affair. The penalty for not doing so is 10,000 euros per article per day (effective from July 21st). Mediapart has appealed against the ruling.

  • 'Monsieur Africa' details '20m-euro gifts' from despots to Chirac and Villepin

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    R.Bourgi. © Reuters R.Bourgi. © Reuters

    For decades he has enjoyed close personal and professional relations with French-speaking Africa's most prominent leaders, including notorious despots. Robert Bourgi (photo), dubbed ‘Monsieur Afrique' in France, is an advisor and go-between for both the French presidency and African heads of state. He created a political storm in September after publicly accusing his one-time boss, former President Jacques Chirac, along with former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, of receiving millions of euros in secret cash payments from several African leaders. Mediapart has obtained exclusive access to a statement he gave earlier this month to magistrates in which he details the cash payment claims, including an alleged lunchtime gift to Villepin of one million euros by the president of Equatorial Guinea. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.