Investigations

  • Senior French civil servant tells corruption probe Sarkozy signed off secret commissions

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    A senior French civil servant has told a corruption investigation that former president Nicolas Sarkozy personally authorized the payment of secret commission payments from French armament contracts which are suspected of being used to illegally finance political activity. Mediapart can reveal that Patricia Laplaud, a former budget ministry financial supervisor of armaments sales gave a statement to the investigation, led by two Paris-based judges, in which she says that Sarkozy, when budget minister in 1994, ordered the secret cash transfers despite opposition from his ministerial advisors. Part of the sums were subsequently withdrawn in cash from Swiss bank accounts by Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who continued to serve until 2009 as an intermediary in weapons contracts organized by Sarkozy’s staff. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • High-profile security firm accused of inflating workplace injuries to boost its taxpayer-funded budget

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    The security firm GPIS runs a much-envied service safeguarding many of Paris' most difficult social housing estates. But this flagship organisation, which has top-level political links and is funded with public money, stands accused of artificially increasing the number and extent of injuries suffered by its agents in the line of duty in order to increase its budget. Former and current staff also talk of a “climate of fear” and stress at the heart of the organisation and of a management culture that systematically encourages false witness statements in legal proceedings. Louise Fessard investigates.

  • Past honeymoon with Assad unmasks Sarkozy 'intervention' call

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    MM. Assad et Sarkozy © Reuters MM. Assad et Sarkozy © Reuters

    Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has finally broken the silence he has kept since failing to be re-elected in May, with a widely-reported call for urgent international intervention against the massacres perpetrated by the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The appeal was contained in a joint statement signed with Syrian opposition leader Abdulbaset Sieda, president of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council. Sarkozy’s return to the public platform was a thinly-disguised attack on his socialist successor, François Hollande, who the former president’s conservative UMP party have criticised as being ineffective and indecisive over the crisis in Syria. But it was also in stark contrast to the extent and nature of Sarkozy’s past dealings with Assad and his regime and which mirrored his ties with other Arab dictators. Fabrice Arfi reports.

     

  • Crisis? What crisis? How the French parliament gravy train rolls on and on

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    While austerity measures, budgetary discipline and spending cuts are the watchwords of debates inside the French parliament, the institution itself enjoys a remarkably undisciplined and high-spending regime that pays parliamentary groups yearly subsidies of almost 10 million euros and without demanding any account to ensure the money is spent for legitimate purposes. Mathilde Mathieu reports.

  • A major scandal brews after Spain arrests HSBC whistleblower Falciani

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    The Swiss authorities on Tuesday confirmed Mediapart’s exclusive report that a former HSBC employee who exposed tens of thousands of tax-evading accounts held with the bank has been arrested in Spain pending extradition to Switzerland, where he is wanted for breaching banking secrecy.  But the extradition for trial of Hervé Falciani, 40, a former Geneva-based IT engineer for HSBC who holds dual French and Italian nationality, could lead to a far larger, wide-ranging scandal of major repercussions. For it is unknown whether he has kept hidden copies of his files of 127,000 accounts held with HSBC, which the French authorities are accused of having previously suppressed. The multi-billion-dollar question is whether the Swiss would finally allow his evidence to emerge in public.Valentine Oberti and Karl Laske report on the web of intrigue surrounding Falciani and the British bank which was last week slammed by a US Senate investigation for having served as a money-laundering conduit for "drug kingpins and rogue nations". 

  • When Barclays financed money-laundering Paris arms dealer while eyeing business with Gaddafi

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    Barclays bank agreed a multi-million-euro loan to a Lebanese arms dealer now at the centre of a major French political corruption scandal despite its knowledge that his vast personal fortune was hidden from the tax authorities in money-laundering offshore companies, Mediapart can reveal. In a confidential document revealed here, a senior manager with the bank's private client arm, Barclays Wealth, recommended the 13.6 million-euro loan with the avowed aim of using Ziad Takieddine (pictured) to help Barclays further its activities with the now-deposed regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • Mussie Zerai, l’ange gardien de ceux qui tentent de traverser la Méditerranée

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    Mussie Zerai est un prêtre érythréen hors du commun. Les migrants qui traversent la Méditerranée ont son numéro de téléphone portable. En cas de naufrage, c'est lui qu'ils appellent au secours et qui alerte les garde-côtes italiens ou maltais. Ces dernières semaines, il reçoit aussi des SOS du désert du Sinaï où ses compatriotes sont pris en otages.

  • Shelved report reveals true picture of France's 'schools of excellence'

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    Seventeen critical education reports languished unpublished under the last year of Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency. Among them is a damning indictment of one of the former president's flagship policies – the creation of so-called schools of excellence. The aim was to take pupils from deprived backgrounds and give them a top-class education in a boarding school environment. But as Lucie Delaporte reveals, this report written in June 2011 calls into question the very existence of these expensive schools.

  • France's own MPs' expenses 'scandal'

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    A Mediapart investigation has revealed that a socialist MP used his parliamentary expenses allowance to pay for family holidays abroad. But his is not an isolated case. Instead, it highlights the near total lack of transparency and control over the way that France's Members of Parliament make use of their generous monthly expenses of more than 6,000 euros. A number of MPs are now calling for greater openness in the allowance system, fearing that an expenses scandal such as the one that hit British MPs in 2009 could engulf them. Meanwhile an anti-corruption organisation warns that an MP who can be shown to have misused their allowances could be prosecuted for misappropriation of public money. Valentine Oberti reports.

  • Exclusive: Sarkozy's chat with Gaddafi on nuclear deal and 'delicate questions'

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    A transcription of a conversation between the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Nicolas Sarkozy, the first held by the two men following Sarkozy’s election as president in May 2007, reveals that, contrary to recent denials by the outgoing French head of state, Tripoli was offered French cooperation to develop a nuclear power programme, along with sales of weapons and security systems. The document, exclusively revealed here by Mediapart, also contains an exchange between the two leaders to decide with which Libyan official Sarkozy could discuss what he described as “delicate questions”. Gaddafi confirmed Sarkozy’s suggestion that this should be Bashir Saleh, head of the Libyan African Portfolio sovereign wealth investment fund who is named in a separate document published by Mediapart as the paymaster for the secret Libyan funding of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.