Interviews

  • HSBC whistleblower Falciani reveals how Swiss authorities tried to negotiate his silence

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    Hervé Falciani. © Reuters Hervé Falciani. © Reuters

    Hervé Falciani, the HSBC employee who exposed the existence of tens of thousands of tax evading accounts held at the bank in Geneva, is back in France where he will give evidence to MPs drawing up a new law on tax fraud. In an interview with Mediapart the former IT man, who was arrested in Spain last year pending possible extradition to Switzerland, has told Mediapart that the Swiss authorities tried to buy his silence with the offer of a non-custodial sentence. Valentine Oberti reports.

  • The migrant workers trapped in slave-like conditions in Greece

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    In April this year, the supervisors of a strawberry farm in Greece opened fire on a group of immigrant workers who had demanded to be paid their salaries which had been withheld for six months. The shooting left 33 Bangladeshi workers wounded (picture), eight of them seriously hurt. It also revealed the dire conditions in which thousands of immigrant workers live in Greece, underpaid and often undeclared, with little or no possibility of escaping their exploitation in intensive farming businesses. Charalambos Kassimis is a professor and research director of rural sociology with the Athens University of Agriculture. In this interview with Amélie Poinssot, he explains the rural evolution which created the need for foreign labour, and details how many migrants became trapped in an organised "state of slavery" made possible by a “law of silence” enforced by politicians.

  • 'There was no cover-up': French finance minister Moscovici on his role in the Cahuzac scandal

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    Pierre Moscovici © Reuters Pierre Moscovici © Reuters

    French finance minister Pierre Moscovici is at the centre of allegations that the government was involved in a cover-up to support Jérôme Cahuzac after Mediapart revealed last December that the then-budget minister, leading a crackdown on tax fraud, held a secret bank account abroad. In this lengthy interview with Mediapart’s Laurent Mauduit and Martine Orange, Moscovici defends his role during the four months in which he stood by Cahuzac, despite the mounting evidence presented by Mediapart that his junior minister and one-time friend consistently lied about holding hidden funds abroad. Moscovici reveals that the former budget minister, who finally confessed earlier this month, after repeated denials, to holding the account, declined to provide a written statement requested by tax authorities last December as to whether he held or not a secret account. But surprisingly that did not cause alarm among his colleagues. “Faced with the firmness and the number of his denials,” Moscovici says, “I had the tendency and the wish to believe Jérôme Cahuzac.”  

  • The goal for Qatar, at home and abroad

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    The investment activities of the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar are seemingly never out of the news in France, where its purchases include businesses, property, the media and, notably, the Paris Saint-Germain football club where its deep pockets allowed the high-profile signings of Zlatan Ibrahimović and David Beckham. But while PSG fans are happy, Qatar’s mooted scheme to set up an investment fund for France’s deprived urban zones prompted a call by members of the conservative opposition for a parliamentary enquiry. Just what is Qatar’s political aim in what often appears to be a high-spending PR campaign, what is the reality of its relationship with the West and France in particular, and what lies behind the authoritarian state's support for regime change elsewhere in the Arab world? Pierre Puchot debates these and other issues with two specialists on Qatari affairs, Nabil Ennasri and Karim Sade.

  • The artistic triumph and economic failure of France's subsidised film industry

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    The French cinema industry has some of the world’s highest-paid stars and largest film budgets, but is losing money hand over fist. The paradox is explained by a system of public subsidies paid to make films whatever their box office appeal. Even for those which prove a popular success, the enormous production costs are hardly ever recovered. The subsidies paid to the French film industry are part of a complex system that its supporters say has allowed it, over many decades, to maintain a rich production while other national cinema industries in Europe have faded. Its critics argue it is a perverse and outdated economic model. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux, the sociologist Olivier Alexandre, a specialist in the history of modern French cinema, analyses how the system works and weighs up the arguments for and against.

  • Life in a French jail: 'The system doesn't allow you to change'

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    Hafed Benotman Hafed Benotman

    Last week the French Ministry of Justice organised a key-note conference on reoffending. Mediapart has spoken to former inmates who told us how they got into crime and explained why prison doesn't stop people from reoffending - and how it can even sow the seeds of further crime. Prisoners often complain that no one listens to them, so we have decided to publish what they have to say, in their own words. What follows is an uncompromising account by 52-year-old Hafed Benotman, who still describes himself as a thief and who served three prison sentences and spent 18 years behind bars. He is now an author and scriptwriter and co-founded a newspaper which gives prisoners a voice.

  • Why a strained Franco-German 'couple' stay married

    French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin on Tuesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, a milestone reconciliation and cooperation agreement that gave birth to a longstanding diplomatic and cultural alliance. The celebrations on Tuesday included a cabinet meeting between French and German governments, and a joint session of both countries’ parliaments, hosted by the Bundestag. But the alliance, often referred to in France as the ‘Franco-German couple’, has been placed under strain in recent years, and notably since the election last year of Hollande who has repeatedly clashed with Merkel over European policies. In this interview with Thomas Schnee, Étienne François, a historian and a recognized expert on the history of modern relations between France and Germany, a co-founder and former director of the Berlin-based Marc Bloch social sciences research centre, analyses the state of the current relationship between the two countries and the wider consequences of their fundamental differences in political culture.

  • Mind the reality gap: Grand Paris plan ‘a vain castle in the air that left people behind’

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    A major urban renovation project called ‘le Grand Paris’ was launched in 2007 to modernise the Greater Paris Region with the development of new centres for economic activity, the construction of more than a million new homes and a major new inter-linking transport system. Amid soaring costs and fierce criticism from environmentalists, the plan, now estimated at 30 billion euros, is under government review. In this interview with Mediapart, Jean-Pierre Orfeuil, a specialist in mobility issues and professor at the Paris Institute of Urbanism, says the project is yet another example of how the elite ignore the real social and economic needs of the public, and argues why only a radical and visionary new approach to the transport infrastructure in and around the capital will solve its current problems.

  • The French budget minister, the Swiss account and the judicial inertia that begs major reform

    French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac earlier this month announced he was suing Mediapart for defamation after this website published an investigation revealing that he had held for a number of years, before he became a member of the government, a secret Swiss bank account. Since its first report, Mediapart has published further information including a tape recording in which a voice identified by witnesses in the affair as that of Cahuzac can be heard discussing the account. While the government stands by its budget minister, who denies ever holding a bank account abroad, the justice authorities have made no move to investigate the case, prompting Mediapart’s Editor-in-Chief Edwy Plenel to write to the Paris public prosecutor’s office demanding an independent judicial enquiry. In this interview, Mediapart’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Mignard, argues that the judicial inertia is the result of the submissive hierarchical relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the executive political powers, one which President François Hollande has previously pledged to bring to an end.

  • Gay couple marriage and adoption rights 'a principle akin to abolishing the death penalty'

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    E. Binet. E. Binet.

    This week, the French government approved the text of a bill of law to go before parliament that will give full-blown marriage and child adoption rights to couples of the same sex. One of President François Hollande’s election campaign pledges, the bill is bitterly opposed by the conservative opposition and France’s Roman Catholic Church. The leading opposition party, the UMP, has promised to reverse the legislation if it is carried, and a significant number of French mayors have warned they will refuse to marry same-sex couples. The bill will be presented before parliament by socialist MP Erwann Binet (pictured). In this interview with Mathieu Magnaudeix, he argues why the proposed law is an important step forward for French society, as a matter of principle, and why he is confident it will be enacted, with or without the cooperation of mayors.