le corruption

From: Wade T.Smith (wade_smith@harvard.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 01 2001 - 03:03:17 BST

  • Next message: Vincent Campbell: "RE: le corruption"

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    Subject: le corruption
    Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 22:03:17 -0400
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    This seems slightly timely, as least as far as that dwindled talk of
    corruption is concerned....

    It seems as rampant in France as I suspected it was everywhere else....

    "In fact, investigations into corruption are now so numerous that earlier
    this year, one prominent Socialist, Bertrand Delanoë, who is now mayor of
    Paris, summed up the situation by saying that if all those accused were
    convicted, French politics would "be an empty field.""

    - Wade


    May 31, 2001

    Former French Official Found Guilty in Sweeping Graft Case


    PARIS, May 30 ‹ A Paris court sentenced the flamboyant former foreign
    minister, Roland Dumas, to six months in jail today and also convicted
    four co-defendants in a huge corruption case that has shaken France's
    political establishment and transfixed the public with its heady
    revelations of sex, power and greed among the once-revered elite.

    Today's result seems sure to send shivers down the spines of dozens of
    prominent officials from all across the political spectrum who are
    currently under investigation. Even President Jacques Chirac is fighting
    allegations that he masterminded a vast illicit fund-raising scheme when
    he was mayor of Paris.

    The conviction of Mr. Dumas, who was also ordered to pay a $130,000 fine,
    and other powerful associates of the late President François Mitterrand
    was a victory for a new aggressive group of investigating magistrates. In
    recent years, they have opened dozens of investigations into corruption
    and exposed the way business and politics intersected for decades here.

    Throughout the case, prosecutors argued that Mr. Dumas, now 78, had
    arranged for his mistress to get a job at an oil company, Elf Aquitaine,
    which was then state-owned, and then benefited from the nearly $9 million
    that the company showered on her between 1989 and 1993. Later privatized,
    Elf Aquitaine found that some of the Mitterrand appointees who had run it
    while it was state- owned had siphoned off more than $250 million,
    company executives charged later. Elf later merged with other companies
    as TotalFinaElf.

    The court ruled today that Mr. Dumas had illegally received gifts and
    cash from Elf. Four of his co- defendants, including his former mistress,
    Christine Deviers-Joncour, also were convicted of corruption and received
    jail sentences.

    Mr. Dumas, silver-haired and sharp-tongued, was belligerent through much
    of the trial. At one point he threatened to "take care" of the
    investigating magistrates when the case was over. But today, he left the
    courtroom without speaking.

    His lawyer, Jean-René Farthouat, nevertheless, claimed a victory of
    sorts, noting that Mr. Dumas' sentence was considerably more lenient than
    the two-year jail sentence requested by the prosecutors. In addition, Mr.
    Dumas, who had to step down as head of the French Constitutional Court to
    face the charges, was not convicted on all counts.

    "There is reason to think that we are taking the case apart piece by
    piece," Mr. Farthouat said, adding that Mr. Dumas would appeal. "A house
    does not fall all in one go." Ms. Deviers-Joncour, who wrote a book about
    her years as Mr. Dumas' lover titled "Whore of the Republic," was
    sentenced to 18 months in jail and fined the equivalent of about
    $200,000. Ms. Deviers-Joncour, 53, had showered Mr. Dumas with gifts,
    including a $1,700 pair of shoes and antique Greek statuettes worth about

    Ms. Deviers-Joncour, a former underwear model who maintained throughout
    the trial that she had merely been a pawn in tangled politics she did not
    understand, seemed on the verge of tears as she hurried from the

    Another co-defendant, Loïk Le Floch-Prigent, a former chairman of Elf,
    was handed a three-and-a-half- year prison term and a $260,000 fine.

    Another former Elf executive, Alfred Sirven, who was on the run during
    most of the trial and refused to defend himself when he was finally
    tracked down and extradited from the Philippines, received a four-year
    prison term and a $260,000 fine.

    The Dumas case was one of the first of the recent, more vigorous
    prosecutions of corruption to reach the courts. For decades, allegations
    of corruption among public officials were rarely pursued with much vigor.
    But in the last five years all that has been changing. Magistrates have
    laid bare a culture of corruption in France's political ranks, where
    kickbacks and ghost jobs for friends and family members appear to have
    been routine.

    Their tactics have often been tough; police officers have searched
    government ministers' homes and hauled even the most well-connected
    members of the elite ‹ including Mr. Mitterrand's son ‹ off to jail for

    Ms. Deviers-Joncour and Mr. Le Floch-Prigent spent months in jail for
    refusing to answer questions.

    There are dozens of similar cases presently hanging fire.

    Investigators are still looking into allegations that Mr. Chirac's former
    ally, Jean Tiberi, rigged votes and provided ghost jobs. And another
    former Chirac ally, Charles Pasqua, is being investigated for his role in
    illegal arms sales.

    On the other side of the political aisle, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a
    former finance minister under the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin,
    is scheduled to go on trial this year on charges that he backdated
    documents to hide an illegal payment.

    He is also being investigated for giving tax breaks in exchange for a
    copy of a videotaped confession that charges Mr. Chirac with
    masterminding a vast kickback scheme when he was mayor of Paris between
    1977 and 1995.

    Mr. Strauss-Kahn apparently never did anything with the cassette, but it
    came to light recently anyway. The tape was made by a former Chirac aide
    who has since died. But the aide's confession has apparently been
    buttressed by other witnesses. The investigating magistrate in the case
    recently filed papers with the court saying he had "credible evidence"
    against Mr. Chirac. But he acknowledged that his hands were tied because
    as president Mr. Chirac enjoys immunity from prosecution.

    Still, Mr. Chirac is now facing a small, but growing movement in
    Parliament to impeach him.

    In fact, investigations into corruption are now so numerous that earlier
    this year, one prominent Socialist, Bertrand Delanoë, who is now mayor of
    Paris, summed up the situation by saying that if all those accused were
    convicted, French politics would "be an empty field."

    The Dumas trial opened in January and never lacked drama. Ms.
    Deviers-Joncour often cried. Mr. Dumas often made speeches and a key
    co-defendant, Mr. Sirven, could not be found. For weeks, all the
    defendants seemed to blame the missing man for just about everything that

    But halfway through the trial, authorities found Mr. Sirven. However,
    once he arrived in Paris, Mr. Sirven, who once bragged he knew enough
    about corrupt French officials "to bring down the Republic 20 times," did
    not make good on his threat. He refused to testify and sat out the trial
    in La Santé prison in Paris, where he remains.

    Two defendants in the case were acquitted yesterday. Both were lesser
    executives at Elf, Andre Tarallo and Jean-Claude Vauchez. But a
    businessman who was also a former boyfriend of Ms. Deviers-Joncour,
    Gilbert Miara, was found guilty of fraud and given an 18-month sentence
    and a $130,000 fine.

    Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

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