Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Financial corruption by politicians in France is the stuff of which banana republics are made
Guerini is a Socialist and President of the Bouches-du-Rhône region, which includes Marseille, a city with major corruption and mafia problems, and he is facing charges of passive corruption, influence peddling, criminal conspiracy to commit crime, and illegal restriction of market access to companies wishing to submit tenders for public works projects. All this is in the context of his alleged handing out of contracts for kickbacks to companies owned by his brother or the mafia. He has refused to go to some court convocations, and has claimed he was ill to avoid going to others. Courts have also charged various other local politicians, businessmen and mafia members with various offences related to the Guerini charges. And no, I didn't make an error at the start of this description of him, he is, incredibly, still a regional president in charge of hundreds of millions of taxpayer euros.
He needs no introduction but some of you may not know much about the fact that he has been charged with breach of trust by means of the abuse of the reduced mental faculties of the victim. This case revolves around allegations that he and others personally obtained envelopes stuffed with banknotes to finance his 2007 election campaign from Liliane Bettencourt, who is the heiress of the L'Oréal cosmetics conglomerate and has a net worth of over $30 billion. Bettencourt was made a ward of the state in 2011 for the poor state of her health and being incapable of the management of her fortune, and she has also been placed by a court under the guardianship of members of her family on concerns about her declining mental health, although she has appealed this latter judgement. This case forced the replacement of Sarkozy's then Budget minister, Eric Woerth, and about 20 other people have also been charged with varying offences in relation to this affair.
Christine Lagarde and the Lagarde-Tapie affair.
A former Economy minister in François Fillon's government, she is now Managing Director of the International Monetary fund. Lagarde is an assisted witness who now stands to be charged with offences related to what is known as the 'Lagarde-Tapie affair'. She is under investigation in relation to her role as a minister in an alleged government decision to illegally settle the court battle between businessman and former minister Bernard Tapie and the Credit Lyonnais bank over alleged fraud concerning the sale of Adidas, a company Tapie owned at the time. Tapie was awarded €405 million in compensation after what is alleged to be government interference in the case on Tapie's behalf in exhange for his support for Sarkozy during his 2007 election campaign. Several other ministers as well as Nicolas Sarkozy are also suspected of being involved in the affair, as are various lawyers, heads of major companies and political advisors, some of whom have spent or are spending time in police custody. Bernard Tapie has not yet been charged but if the case goes ahead he most certainly shall be. Not that he isn't used to being in court of course, given that he was jailed some years back for corruption.
Guéant was Nicolas Sarkozy's Interior minister and the General Secretary of the Elysée. He is under criminal investigation in several affairs.
a) He is suspected of being involved in the illegal financing of Nicolas Sarkoz's election campaign by Muammar Gadaffi by transiting €500,000 through his own bank account.
b) Judges have found evidence that he may have received up to €240,000 in secret government cash funds between 2002 and 2004 and creamed some of it off for his own benefit.
c) He is one of several senior government figures who are suspected of being involved in the Lagarde-Tapie affair.
d) He is facing charges of fraud, receiving stolen goods and complicity to commit an offence for his part in the creation of a non-existent and well paid political advisory job to help a political ally and friend by using his influence as Sarkozy's head of the Elysée.
Again, other politicians are implicated in these cases.
He was François Hollande's Budget minister in charge of dealing with tax fraud until May, when he resigned after being himself charged with tax fraud. He admitted holding an offshore bank account for 20 years which contained €600,000 of laundered money when investigations began. Cahuzac is in the news today because - and contrary to previous declarations - he will no longer cooperate with judges and investigators. It is suspected that his illegal activities were known to other ministers, who said and did nothing to stop him being offered the job of Budget minister.
Tabarot is second-in-command of the UMP party after Jean-François Copé and is being investigated for her role in a massive €72 million real estate fraud in Spain involving her brother, her political advisor (who was a shareholder in the incriminated company) and another politician, all three of whom have already been charged with various offences. She is alleged to have used some of the money to finance her political campaigns.
The Socialists of Béthune, in the Pas-de-Calais region.
Too numerous to name here, dozens of socialist politicians in the town Béthune, including the Mayor, have been charged with offences including forgery, the use of forged documents, the embezzlement of public money, passive corruption, active corruption, forged invoices and many more. The Federation of the whole of the Pas-de-Calais region is also under investigation. The Socialist Party in Béthune was described as a judge as having created "a mafia climate" in the town. Private planes paid for with taxpayers' money, the extortion of illegal commission from companies tendering for local authority contracts, fraudulent accounting practices, you name it, it's on the charge sheet.
As I said at the beginning of this entry, these cases are just those which appeared in the French press today and as such they do not represent all of the ongoing cases against and investigations into French politicians. There are many more and and even more are in the pipeline. Very few of the well-known politicians involved in these scandals shall ever be found guilty, never mind go to prison.
This is the stuff of which banana republics are made and it goes a long way to explaining why the vast majority of French citizens think that most politicians are corrupt. It also proves that they are quite justified in thinking that. But why do the French people tolerate this extraordinarily vast and generalised amount of corruption by their politicians?
Was Charles De Gaulle right after all to say that "les français sont des veaux", an expression he used to say that the French were too indolent, meek and lazy to fight for what was right, even when it was in their own interest?
It obviously seems that way at the moment, but who knows, things may change one day. That said, don't hold your breath whilst waiting...