Investigations

  • The posh Paris school serving the elite with tax breaks

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    The Ecole Bilingue Active Jeannine-Manuel is a semi-private Paris school specialised in teaching in both French and English, where its 2,200 pupils are offered a complete lower education cycle from age 3 to 18. It has become the school of choice for parents among the capital’s political, business and showbiz elite, as well as others from the expat community, and boasts exceptional educational standards and means that provide a 100% pass rate for the school-leaving Baccalauréat exam. But, as Lucie Delaporte reports, a significant part of the funding of this high-performing school for the offspring of the rich and famous is met through a generous system of tax breaks.

  • Swiss bank account affair - the budget minister's lies

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    J. Cahuzac © Reuters J. Cahuzac © Reuters

    Jérôme Cahuzac, the budget minister accused of having an undisclosed Swiss bank account until 2010, has withheld the truth surrounding the affair from the highest offices of state, Mediapart can reveal. Mediapart can disclose that the person who possesses the key recording on which Cahuzac (pictured) is heard discussing his bank account has himself approached the office of French President François Hollande to confirm it is genuine. Meanwhile email correspondence between the minister and friends shows that he himself does not deny the authenticity of the recording. And Mediapart can also reveal that the tax authorities have started to carry out thorough checks of the budget minister’s recent tax declarations, which appear to show numerous discrepancies. All of which, says Fabrice Arfi, is proof that Jérôme Cahuzac is in an untenable political situation.

  • Behind the protests: Vinci's lucrative deal to build the controversial Great West Airport

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    The plan to build the so-called Great West Airport in the unique hedgerow farmland of France’s lower Loire Valley has provoked one of the biggest environmental protests seen in the country for years. The row also has a strong political dimension with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault being a big supporter of the plan ever since he was mayor of Nantes, while the government's Green allies are deeply opposed. But there is also another, less visible, aspect to the project - the favourable contract won by giant French construction group Vinci to build and run the airport. Jade Lindgaard reports.

  • Revealed: the man who handles the budget minister's own personal fortune

    Jérôme Cahuzac, the budget minister accused of having a secret Swiss bank account until 2010, has amassed considerable wealth from his work as a hair transplant surgeon and consultant. Mediapart can reveal the name of the man who handles the minister's personal wealth, the ultra-discreet Hervé Dreyfus (see photo, right). Mediapart can also disclose it was Dreyfus to whom Cahuzac was talking during his now infamous telephone conversation when he was accidentally recorded talking about the Swiss account – whose existence he still continues to deny. Fabrice Arfi, Dan Israel, Mathilde Mathieu and Martine Orange investigate the financial background and contacts of France's under-fire budget minister.

  • French budget minister caught on tape discussing his secret Swiss account

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    Jérôme Cahuzac, mecredi 5 décembre.  © Reuters Jérôme Cahuzac, mecredi 5 décembre. © Reuters

    Following French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac’s vehement denials of Mediapart’s revelations that he held a secret bank account in Switzerland over a number of years until 2010, Mediapart publishes here a sound recording of a conversation in which Cahuzac (pictured) explicitly refers to the account, held with a branch of Swiss banking giant UBS in Geneva. Cahuzac, who last month announced a crackdown by his ministry on tax fraud, can be heard saying: “What bothers me is that I still have an account open with UBS", before adding, with irony: "UBS is not necessarily the most hidden of banks.” Fabrice Arfi reports.

  • The French budget minister and his secret Swiss bank account

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    Jérôme Cahuzac © Reuters Jérôme Cahuzac © Reuters

    French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac (pictured), who last month announced his ministry was launching a crackdown on tax fraud, held for several years a secret bank account in Switzerland, Mediapart can reveal. The funds held in the UBS account were, after it was closed in 2010, allegedly then transferred to Singapore. In an interview with Mediapart, Cahuzac has denied ever holding an account in Switzerland, while threatening legal action if the suggestion that he had was published, which Mediapart does indeed do here. Fabrice Arfi reports.

  • Scandal of the 'low cost' European workers in France

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     © Rachida El Azzouzi © Rachida El Azzouzi

    From Portuguese builders to Romanian welders, the number of European workers who are brought in on 'temporary assignment' to French building sites is increasing all the time. In theory all these foreign staff should benefit from the same wages and social rights as their French counterparts. But the grim reality is that unscrupulous employers in France's construction industry and other sectors are getting around the law to pay the workers pitifully low wages and deprive them of their social rights. Rachida El Azzouzi met some of the union officials trying to fight against this growing form of exploitation.


  • French judge stands by Bettencourt-Sarkozy 'campaign cash' whistleblower

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    Claire Thibout © Reuters Claire Thibout © Reuters

    A judicial investigation into the suspected illegal financing of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election bid has finally vindicated the testimony of Claire Thibout (pictured), an accountant for L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt who first revealed in a 2010 interview with Mediapart  how vast cash withdrawals from the billionaire’s bank accounts were made shortly before meetings between Bettencourt’s wealth manager and Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer. Karl Laske reports on the latest developments in the investigation, in which Sarkozy is expected to be questioned in the coming weeks.

  • How the Aga Khan was exonerated from taxes by Sarkozy

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    In a letter signed in 2008, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy used exceptional powers to exonerate the Aga Khan, one of the world’s richest royals, from paying any form of tax in France, where he is a resident, Mediapart can reveal. The fiscal status was approved by then-budget minister Eric Woerth, mayor of, and Member of Parliament for, the town of Chantilly, north of Paris, where the Aga Khan initiated and largely funded the financial rescue of the town’s historic racecourse and equestrian centre. The letter, dated April 4th 2008 and exclusively revealed here, promised that the religious leader would benefit from an “exoneration of direct taxes, stamp duty and wealth tax.” Woerth is currently cited in two judicial investigations into suspected corruption, one involving the financial affairs of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the other into the sale of state-owned forest land to a horse-racing company in Compiègne, close to Chantilly. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • Sailing away on 'ill-gotten gains'

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    Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, high-living son of the president of Equatorial Guinea and vice-president of the country, wanted by France and the United States on charges of money-laundering and embezzlement, is on the point of purchasing one of the world’s largest luxury yachts (pictured) for the sum of 200 million dollars. Mediapart has discovered that a company was especially set up in Equatorial Guinea to carry out the acquisition of the vessel from the family of the late Saudi crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It is a remarkable snub to a French judicial investigation into so-called 'ill-gotten gains' of several African leaders and which has uncovered compelling evidence that Obiang Mangue and his father have acquired massive personal fortunes through illegally stripping the assets of the small west-central African state, where an estimated 75% of the population live below the poverty line. Fabrice Arfi reports.