Chirac says democracy is not a lack of respect and exploiting incidents to the point of outrage. And what made him indignant? Glad you asked: Le Canard Enchainé has him upset:
French President Jacques Chirac rejected some press accusations Wednesday on his alleged possession of a secret $58 million bank account in Japan.
I’ve heard rumors that there’s a girlfriend in Japan, too, but who’s to know? No matter what, Jacques is a very pricey guy. But back to the scandal du jour
Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine based their exposé on a report by former intelligence general Philippe Rondot, the same used in the so-called Clearstream scandal, which named De Villepin and the president as instigators.
Of course, Jacques “expressed his wish to get it [the investigation] over with as soon as possible”, and denies the allegation, even when General Rondot
was alleged to have told investigating judges that the large amounts were paid by a “cultural foundation” into an account in the president’s name at the Tokyo Sowa Bank.
Readers of this blog will remember that
Gen Rondot is at the centre of an investigation into who ordered intelligence checks on Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and presidential hopeful. Mr Sarkozy had been falsely accused in poison pen mail of holding secret overseas accounts to launder kickbacks from the sale of French warships to Taiwan.
The judges, who are seeking to identify the whistleblower, were reportedly told by the general that he was personally ordered by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to investigate Mr Sarkozy.
Meanwhile, today’s headline at Le Monde categorically states Les notes de Philippe Rondot impliquent directement l’Elysée (Rondot’s notes directly implicate the President’s office)
De fait, l’implication du chef de l’Etat apparaît sans ambiguïté dans les écrits du général – sur lesquels il doit être réinterrogé par les juges, les 18 et 22 mai. A l’inverse des déclarations officielles, Jacques Chirac a bien donné des “instructions” dans cette affaire, et celles-ci ne portaient pas seulement, de façon générale, sur “la protection des marchés internationauxet la lutte contre les réseaux mafieux”, ainsi que l’affirmait le communiqué de l’Elysée publié le 28 avril.
In fact, the head of state was directly involved according to the general’s notes – who will be re-interrogated by the investigating judges on May 18 and 22. Official statements to the contrary, Jacques Chirac gave direct “instructions” in this business, and not just in a general way for “the protection of the international markets in the fight against organized crime networks”, as [Chirac] stated in his official statement of April 28.
The Mail & Guardian On Line pursue the story:
“Protect the president” and “Risk: that the PR [president] be damaged” were written several times in Rondot’s notes, Le Monde reported. And in July 2004, the spy-chief quoted De Villepin as saying: “If we appear, the president and me, we’re done for.”
Rondot — who at the time answered to Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie — also noted that “she took it very badly that the president decided I should take on the operation directly without answering to her”.
Ms Alliot-Marie’s husband, Patrick Ollier, was also on the list.
The Mail & Guardian continues,
On Thursday, strong evidence emerged that the identity of the informant was the vice-president of the European defence and aerospace company EADS, Jean-Louis Gergorin, a high-flying foreign affairs specialist who has known De Villepin for 25 years.
Gergorin, VP of strategic coordination at the European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Company, quit his job (the NYT says he is on leave). EADS is a major military contractor and the principal shareholder of Airbus. (See my May 5 post for more background on Gergorin.)
many of Mr Sarkozy’s supporters worry he could be struck by the malediction of Matignon, the curse of the premier’s office, which has eroded the popularity of every sitting prime minister and meant that none has ever won a presidential election.
Instead, Mr Sarkozy’s supporters argue he should refuse the poisoned chalice of the Matignon and wait until next year’s presidential election, when he is an early favourite to replace Jacques Chirac in the Elysée presidential palace.
For now, at least, de Villepin and Jacques are staying put. Their French farce
does not necessarily make M Sarkozy the real winner in this drama. The admittedly familiar spectacle of leading centre-right figures forming a circular firing squad is not destined to impress French electors. This scandal may instead boost the standing of Ségolène Royal, a former Minister for Education and then Families, and the likely Socialist Party champion next year.
See sidebar for previous posts. Don’t miss also Le Monde’s flow chart (in French) of the affaire which I’ll translate and post later.
Update 2 Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, who was investigating allegations of bribery in the 1991 sale of French frigates to Taiwan, has stated that Georgorin conned him into investigating Sarkozy
Judge Van Ruymbeke, who opened an inquiry into the anonymous letters after receiving them, said on Wednesday he had been manipulated into investigating the allegations against Sarkozy.
Van Ruymbeke told the daily Le Monde he had been drawn into the affair via a meeting with Gergorin, who claimed to possess information on the frigate sale, which the judge had been investigating for years.
Van Ruymbeke said he had not been told about the secret service investigations, which had already concluded the lists had been faked, before coming to the same verdict himself.
“I am angry that I’ve had my time wasted and that a trap was set for me,” he said.
Van Ruymbeke later determined that the list was a forgery. See also today’s France2’s newscast (in French; click on La suite de l’affaire Clearstream 13h05m29s)
Monsters & Critics wonders if “France may finally find out the truth about the famous suitcase and about the man who has been their president”.
If you’re wondering what suitcase is that, read their article.