Investigations

  • 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.

  • 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.