Investigations

  • The hidden traffic along 'The Golden Road' to Switzerland

    By Federico Franchini (La Cité)
     © Reuters © Reuters

    The A9 motorway linking northern Italy with Switzerland is at the heart of a major gold smuggling racket worth hundreds of millions of euros. Last year, an estimated five tonnes of the precious metal was illegally transported into Switzerland where clandestine cargos are melted down by official refiners and transformed into perfectly legal bars of gold. The business is largely managed by criminal networks surrounding 'cash-for-gold' shops that have mushroomed in Italy since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008. But while the Italian police have launched a series of investigations into the traffic, the Swiss authorities have displayed a surprising disinterest into what one official dismissed as "a few minor cases of contraband". Federico Franchini reports.

  • Roma 'prohibited' by drivers from travelling on Paris buses

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    The French citizens’ rights watchdog, the Défenseur des droits, is investigating a complaint that a bus driver with the Paris public transport system, the RATP, refused to let three young Roma men with valid travel passes climb aboard his vehicle, allegedly saying ‘dirty Romanians, you’re like dogs’. Witnesses have come forward to confirm the incident which, as Carine Fouteau reports, is just one of a series involving allegedly discriminatory behaviour against Roma by RATP staff, and which drivers' union officials say they “cannot deny” happen.


  • Exclusive: phone taps reveal Sarkozy plot against 'bastard' judges

    By and
    Nicolas Sarkozy et son avocat, Thierre Herzog.  © Reuters Nicolas Sarkozy et son avocat, Thierre Herzog. © Reuters

    Mediapart can reveal the content of the controversial phone bugging carried out on former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Details of seven phone taps show that the ex-head of state set up what amounts to a dirty tricks operation to neutralise the judges who are investigating him. The extraordinary content of the calls confirm that Sarkozy's team used senior judge Gilbert Azibert to find out information about the Bettencourt affair. And that Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog was kept informed by a mole in the upper echelons of the state about the progress of the investigation over the Libyan funding of the former president's 2007 election campaign. As Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report, it is the start of a new state scandal involving Nicolas Sarkozy.

  • Senior French ambassador: 'I was told about Libyan funding of Sarkozy campaign'

    By and
    MM. Sarkozy et Kadhafi, en 2007, à l'Elysée.  © Reuters MM. Sarkozy et Kadhafi, en 2007, à l'Elysée. © Reuters

    François Gouyette, who is now ambassador to Tunisia but was France's man in Libya from 2008 to 2011, has revealed to judges that two different well-placed Libyans told him that there had “indeed” been funding by Muammar Gaddafi's regime of Nicolas Sarkozy's successful bid to become French president in 2007. The fluent Arabic speaker also told the investigating magistrates that the Libyan document published by Mediapart in April 2012 revealing the illicit funding looks genuine. His intervention follows a whole string of senior figures from Libya, both friends and foes of the late Gaddafi, who have confirmed that the financing of the Sarkozy election campaign took place. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • French breast implant scandal – what the surgeons knew

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    Prothèse PIP défectueuse © Reuters Prothèse PIP défectueuse © Reuters

    The breast implant scandal in which faulty implants with sub-standard silicone gel were supplied to women all around the world revealed how the French company PIP that made them fiddled safety inspections to avoid being found out. Mediapart has since exposed the extent to which the French medical watchdog was slow to react to this growing scandal. Now, based on previously unpublished documents, this website can disclose that years before the PIP affair came to light many of the surgeons who bought and used the implants for patients were concerned at the substandard nature of the product – and that some unsuccessfully tried to raise the alarm. Michel de Pracontal reports.

  • Revealed: how top cop tipped off Sarkozy ally over Libyan funding investigation

    By and
    MM. Hortefeux et Takieddine, en 2005 © dr MM. Hortefeux et Takieddine, en 2005 © dr

    Revelations about phone taps on Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog have caused a major legal and political row. Lawyers say the eavesdropping is a breach of lawyer-client privilege, right-wing politicians have claimed there is a plot to discredit the former French president, while the phone taps themselves suggest evidence of 'influence peddling'. But the judicially-approved eavesdropping also targeted former interior minister and close Sarkozy ally Brice Hortefeux as part of the investigation into illegal funding of the Sarkozy 2007 presidential campaign by the Libyan regime. Here Mediapart publishes extracts from some of those phone taps which show how a senior policeman phoned Hortefeux to warn him about details of the investigation and to coach him about how to prepare for questioning – in flagrant breach of procedural regulations. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • The plot behind Orange's censorship of its movie production arm

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    Stéphane Richard, le président d'Orange. Stéphane Richard, le président d'Orange.

    Frédérique Dumas, head of Orange Studio, the film production arm of French telecoms giant Orange and which has co-produced several major box office hits including The Artist, was called upon to abandon the funding of a biopic about the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in order to protect the private interests of Orange CEO Stéphane Richard, according to documents obtained by Mediapart. The move was aimed as a favour for Pierre Bergé, a major shareholder of French daily Le Monde and president of its supervisory board, whose paper was at the time publishing an unflattering series of articles about Richard’s implication in a high-profile judicial investigation into suspected fraud. Dumas, who refused to abandon the coproduction project, has since lost her job. Michaël Hajdenberg reports.  

  • Scolarité des enfants d’immigrés : la mauvaise note de la France

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    La dernière enquête PISA révèle une plus faible performance des élèves issus de l'immigration, à milieu social équivalent. Des chiffres qui vont à l'encontre de toutes les statistiques officielles publiées jusque-là.

  • Faulty electrical equipment in French nuclear plants poses ‘heightened reactor meltdown risk’, warns safety watchdog

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    France’s nuclear safety agency, the ASN, has warned of the potentially catastrophic danger posed by faulty electric circuit breakers found in a number of nuclear power plants located around the country, and which could eventually cause the meltdown of their reactor cores. Recorded incidents have shown that numerous circuit breakers regularly failed to function since they were first installed four years ago. While the plants’ operator, utilities giant EDF, has played down the gravity of the problem, the ASN has ordered it to start looking for replacement equipment “as of now”. Jade Lindgaard reports.

  • Leading Gaddafi opponent confirms Libya paid 50 million euros to Sarkozy campaign

    By and
    Mohamed el-Megaryef © Reuters Mohamed el-Megaryef © Reuters

    A prominent Libyan dissident who became his country's first head of state after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has confirmed that the dictator’s regime paid millions of euros to support Nicolas Sarkozy's successful bid for the French presidency in 2007. Mohamed Al Magariaf, who spent many years in exile because of his opposition to the regime, is the first leading figure in post-Gaddafi Libya to acknowledge that his country illegally financed the Sarkozy campaign. Al Magariaf, who spent much of his exile in the United States, also says that payments continued until 2009. His revelations were made in sections of his recent book that were removed by his publisher just before publication. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske reveal their explosive content.