Investigations

  • Judge links L'Oréal heiress cash withdrawals to Sarkozy campaign funding

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    A major criminal investigation into the affairs of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, and notably the suspected illegal funding of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign, has established that at least 800,000 euros were withdrawn from her secret Swiss bank accounts when Sarkozy was running for the presidency. Last week Bettencourt’s long-serving wealth manager, Patrice de Maistre, was imprisoned after being placed under formal investigation for financial corruption and for abusing the mental frailty of the L’Oréal heiress, now aged 89. The move followed the placing under investigation, in February, of Eric Woerth, former budget minister and Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign treasurer, in connection with the suspected scam. Fabrice Arfi reports.

  • Kuwaiti sheik's Swiss account reveals key cash clue to 'Karachi Affair'

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    A Paris judge investigating the suspected illegal financing of former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur’s presidential election campaign has uncovered new and compelling evidence that he received a significant sum of cash siphoned off from a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, Mediapart can reveal. The discovery, a major development in what has become known as 'the Karachi Affair', centres on cash withdrawn from a Swiss bank account belonging to a member of Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family, Sheik Ibrahim Al-Duaij Al-Sabah. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • Man behind Gaddafi-Sarkozy funding allegations report turns on Mediapart

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

    After providing Mediapart with further information concerning allegations that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign was partly funded by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the man at the centre of the controversy has now suddenly denounced a “crude manipulation” of his secret report detailing the alleged scam. Jean-Charles Brisard, a French expert on terrorism and terrorist financing, had earlier told Mediapart how Brice Hortefeux, (pictured with arms dealer Ziad Takieddine) a longstanding close friend and political aide of the French president and who is now vice-president of France’s ruling UMP party, was the “front” in a financial network set up for the secret funding of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign by the Gaddafi regime. The Swiss-based consultant said he had a file containing “precise amounts, names, countries and dates.” Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • 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).