Investigations

  • 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.

  • The plan for Gaddafi to help France free Ingrid Betancourt

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine is a key figure in what has become known as the ‘Karachi affair', involving alleged secret political funding from commissions paid in French weapons sales abroad. A judge leading an independent probe into the suspected scam last month placed Takieddine and two of President Nicolas Sarkozy's close friends and aides under formal investigation in the case. In a series of investigations that began this summer, Mediapart has revealed Takieddine's unusual role as intermediary and advisor in a number of French weapons sales, and his close relationship with several of President Sarkozy's inner circle of friends and advisors. Documents obtained by Mediapart now disclose how the arms dealer was involved in arranging for the French presidency the services of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to free former hostage Ingrid Betancourt (photo) from her FARC captors in Colombia. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • The arms dealer and his 'friendly' services for UMP leader Copé

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    Documents obtained by Mediapart show that the head of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, Jean-François Copé, enjoyed more than what he maintains are purely amicable relations with a key suspect in the illegal political funding investigation in which members of the president's close entourage are implicated. For despite the UMP secretary-general's public claims that he "never had relations of a professional nature" with Ziad Takieddine, Mediapart can reveal that the Paris-based arms dealer paid for a visit for Copé to Lebanon, in which he organized a programme of meetings with the Lebanese prime minister and other senior political and business figures. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.