Investigations

  • How Ikea spied on customers complaining of delayed deliveries or faulty goods

    In the unfolding scandal of how Swedish furniture retail giant Ikea spied on its staff and customers in France, Mediapart has now obtained new evidence of how the chain engaged in illegally obtaining personal information about customers who lodged minor complaints with its stores over faulty goods - one involving a 200-euro cupboard - or delayed deliveries of their purchases. The cases again include the accessing of personal data from national French police files, and which could only be obtained by corrupting law enforcement officials. Mathilde Mathieu and Michaël Hajdenberg report. 

  • Exclusive: secret report describes Gaddafi funding of Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign

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     © (Reuters) © (Reuters)

    According to information contained in a confidential report prepared by a recognised French expert on terrorism and terrorist financing, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign received up to 50 million euros in secret funds from the regime of the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The document, to which Mediapart has gained exclusive access and details of which are published here, suggests the money transited by a covert financial network, via Panama and a Swiss bank account, allegedly organized by Paris-based arms dealer Ziad Takieddine.

  • Exclusive: IKEA France boss oversaw secret espionage on sick manager's private life

     © Reuters © Reuters

    In a significant development of the spying scandal engulfing Swedish furniture retail giant Ikea, Mediapart has exclusively obtained evidence that the managing director of Ikea France personally took part in an underhand espionage operation that illegally trawled for information into the personal life of one of the company’s senior staff. Documents accessed by Mediapart and published here reveal how Jean-Louis Baillot, head of the company’s French operations from 1996 to 2009, and who is now Ikea’s director for international commercial operations, was aware, approved of and encouraged the surveillance methods used by Ikea France security chief Jean-François Paris to hound and bait the company’s deputy director of communications and interior store planning, Virginie Paulin. Fabrice Arfi, Michaël Hajdenberg and Mathilde Mathieu report.

  • BNP Paribas faces being placed under investigation in Madoff scam probe

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    France's biggest listed bank, BNP Paribas, and largest in Europe, is set to be placed under formal investigation – one step short of charges being brought - in connection with suspected fraudulent handling of clients' investments in funds that channelled money to US fraudster Bernard Madoff, judicial sources have told Mediapart. A ruling by the Paris appeal court's investigatory chamber found that "Bernard Madoff's own responsibility does not rule out the possibility of fraudulent behaviour by intermediaries such as the BNP." The court cited documents from the US liquidator of the Madoff group, concluding that “it now seems that the bank received millions of dollars in exchange for services that were never provided and while it was in possession of information […] which should have prompted it to investigate BLMIS [Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities]". The ruling has relaunched an investigation that now threatens the bank with major legal consequences. Laurent Mauduit reports.

  • 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'.