Post updated: Scroll down for the translations to questions 1-3, and for the link to the timeline
In yesterday‘s post I listed Libération‘s 10 questions.
1. Did Jacques Chirac ask you to start the investigation?
Background: French PM Dominique de Villepin is accused of having asked an intelligence agent in 2004 to secretly investigate M Sarkozy for allegedly receiving kickbacks from a £1.5 billion sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.
By asking 1. Did Jacques Chirac ask you to start the investigation?, Libération explains,
General Philippe Rondot [head of the DGSE intelligence service (akin to the CIA)] states on his offical report that on a January 9, 2004, conversation with Dominique de Villepin, “He shared with me the instructions he had received from Jacques Chirac on the Clearstream listings.” In general, for background, Villepin “made it clear that it was a question of checking the validity of this list to know if the names listed had indeed an account at Clearstream“. The Elysée [President’s office] released on Friday an official statement saying that Chirac has always tried to “raise the moral standards of the international markets and to fight against crime networks“. . . Villepin asserted that “the President’s [Chirac] instructions” referred only to the business of the frigates sold to Taiwan. This doesn’t exclude any inquiries on possible French recipients of hidden kickbacks.
This question is interesting not only for the issues it asks up front, but also because the anonymous letter to French magistrates was sent during the summer of 2004 – and Rondot’s conversation with Villepin took place in January 9, 2004.
I’ll be translating more of the Libération questions as time allows.
In the meantime, according to the BBC, French newspapers say the ongoing judicial inquiry into the corruption scandal has to move quickly to resolve increasing public disquiet.
I suggest that an efficiently thorough and impartial investigation would be a better approach.
Continuing the translation of the Libération questions,
2. Why did you become interested in Clearstream?
Villepin picked Rondot when [Villepin] was Foreign Minister. This office doesn’t have jurisdiction to order an investigation with the special services (DGSE, RG or DST), which answer directly their ministers (Defense or Interior). Rondot had already been asked by Minister for Defense, Michelle Alliot-Marie, to check if Clearstream did not shelter any al-Qaeda accounts, but in the Summer of 2004 Villepin ordered the DST to find out who was “le corbeau”. [i.e., the person behind the forgery]
3. Did you request that Nicolas Sarkozy be investigated?
The examining magistrates seized a note of General Rondot’s written after the January 9, 2004 conversation,with the comment: “political stake: N Sarkozy. Focus on N Sarkozy (re: conflict J Chirac. Sarkozy).” Villepin swears “there was never a question, at any moment, of being interested in a specific politician, and especially not Sarkozy“. General Rodot himself, in an interview in today’s [May 2 (link in French)] Figaro said, “Never did Dominique de Villepin order me to focus on Nicolas Sarkozy“. . . But according to [Chirac biographer] Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Villepin said “That’s it, got it. Sarkozy, he’s finished!“
In his notes of the January 4 meeting Rondot wrote a margin commentary saying “Fixation Sarkozy’, (Sarkozy obsession), which doesn’t help Villepin’s case at all. Update 2: In fact, Le Monde, after publishing on line most of the transcript of the two judges’ interview of Rondot (link below), states
“Reading the general’s note — which he drew up two years ago not imagining it would one day be seized by the judicial authorities — makes it clear beyond doubt that Mr Sarkozy was the subject of a large part of the (Rondot-Villepin) interview,” the newspaper said.
“The note, seized during a search, establishes that at that date already Mr Villepin was informed of the presence of politicians on the Clearstream list.”
I had mentioned this morning that January/Summer discrepancy.
Here’s the transcript (pdf file, in French) of General Rondot’s deposition. I’ll read it and comment on it tomorrow if time allows.