October 25, 2021

French Relish Cycle of Scandals Featuring Sarkozy-Era Officials

Those inquiries, which prompt sometimes delicious and humiliating leaks, very often go nowhere, lost in a thicket of appeals and denials, with not quite enough evidence to indict the key figures involved.

France is in the midst of another cycle of scandals, most of them concerning central figures in the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost his bid for re-election a year ago to the Socialist candidate, François Hollande. Nearly every week there are new revelations about Mr. Sarkozy or his former top lieutenants, including his good friend, consigliere, former chief of staff and former interior minister, Claude Guéant, and now even Christine Lagarde, the former finance minister.

The Lagarde case, which involves a dispute over the sale of a company, is particularly interesting for the rest of the world, since she is the well-liked managing director of the International Monetary Fund. She was chosen two years ago to replace the scandal-prone Dominique Strauss-Kahn, another former French finance minister. The case is particularly interesting for the French, too. Although Ms. Lagarde served Mr. Sarkozy, both her top aide then, Stéphane Richard, now head of France Télécom (soon to be renamed Orange), and the larger-than-life character at the center of the case, Bernard Tapie, were Socialists.

While a clear indication of the intimacy among France’s elite, no matter their political allegiance, the Lagarde case has put the Hollande government in a quandary. While Mr. Tapie’s critics dismiss him as an avaricious renegade, Ms. Lagarde has kept a vital international job in French hands and Mr. Richard is supported by both his board and by the government, which owns a significant stake in the company.

Mr. Tapie came from a modest background to become an actor, television star, racecar driver, politician, government minister, businessman and owner of one of France’s great soccer teams, Olympique de Marseille, which got him a jail term when he was found guilty of bribing opposing players. He also owned Adidas.

But in 1992, while in government, he asked the bank Crédit Lyonnais to sell Adidas, which it did for his minimum price, while concealing that it sold the company to itself. It then resold Adidas, making a profit of more than $500 million. Mr. Tapie later sued the bank, and when Mr. Sarkozy became president, Ms. Lagarde agreed to a three-judge arbitration panel to settle the long case. In July 2008 the panel awarded Mr. Tapie $528 million.

The accusation is that Mr. Sarkozy and his aides arranged the outcome, in part through the chairman of the panel, Pierre Estoup, now 86, as part of a deal with Mr. Tapie. What Mr. Tapie provided to Mr. Sarkozy in this version is not clear, but Ms. Lagarde and Mr. Richard have been interrogated in the case, and there are suggestions that Mr. Guéant was involved; he is expected to be questioned soon.

Ms. Lagarde has said that she did nothing wrong, and in testimony leaked to Le Monde suggested that Mr. Richard handled the matter and kept information from her. She is judged so far to be just a witness in the case, not a suspect, unlike Mr. Richard — who also denies wrongdoing.

But Le Monde recently published a handwritten letter from Ms. Lagarde addressed to Mr. Sarkozy, undated and possibly unsent, seized by the police when they raided her home in March over the Tapie case. The letter, leaked to embarrass Ms. Lagarde, in five points promises loyalty to Mr. Sarkozy, vows that she will do whatever he thinks needs to be done for as long as he wants to employ her, and asks for his advice, support and counsel. Written in the familiar “tu” form, it is signed, “with my immense admiration, Christine L.”

If nothing else, the letter is an indication of the sycophancy surrounding the republican imperium of the French presidency, especially under Mr. Sarkozy.

Mr. Guéant, who was widely feared as Mr. Sarkozy’s enforcer, is also being investigated over receipt of a $650,000 wire from a foreign bank. He says the money was for the sale of two paintings that experts say would not be worth nearly that much, and which he did not register.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/world/europe/french-relish-cycle-of-scandals-featuring-sarkozy-era-officials.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Anne Sinclair Named Editorial Director of Huffington Post in France

While neither Le Monde nor The Huffington Post directly announced the appointment of Ms. Sinclair, a well-known TV  journalist in France, they sent out a notice Wednesday inviting reporters to the introduction of ‘‘Le Huffington Post’’ on Monday.  

The invitation was signed by several executives, including Arianna Huffington, the founder of the site, and named Ms. Sinclair as ‘‘editorial director.’’

‘‘I am very happy to resume my career, amid the euphoria of taking part in something new,’’ Ms. Sinclair said in an interview with the French edition of Elle magazine that was posted on its Web site Wednesday. ‘‘I think I still have something to bring to the profession.’’  

The choice of Ms. Sinclair, which has been the subject of speculation in the French press for several weeks, will bring immediate attention to the new site, but also carries potential risks.  

Ms. Sinclair has been in the limelight for other reasons lately, as she stood by her husband’s side when he faced charges, later dropped, that he had sexually assaulted a chambermaid in a New York hotel last year.  

Those charges prompted Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation from the I.M.F. and dashed his hopes of being named the Socialist candidate for the presidential election this spring, when President Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to seek a second term.

Some French critics have questioned whether Ms. Sinclair could remain an objective journalist at a time when her husband and their relationship has become a continuing story. In November, the couple filed lawsuits against several French newspapers over their coverage of a new sex scandal, in which Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been drawn into an investigation of an alleged international prostitution ring centered on the city of Lille. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has denounced what he called a ‘‘media lynching.’’  

Ms. Sinclair, a wealthy heiress, was the host of a popular television interview program during the 1980s and ’90s. She gave up that job in 1997 when Mr. Strauss-Kahn was named finance minister of France.   

The new version of The Huffington Post will enter a busy market for online journalism in France, where sites like Mediapart, Rue89, the French edition of Slate and others have gained a reputation for aggressive news coverage and attracted significant audiences.

Some of these sites have struggled to attract advertising in France, where online spending is lower than in the United States and Britain.

The new site is a joint venture of AOL, the Internet company that owns The Huffington Post; Le Monde; and Matthieu Pigasse, a banker who acquired Le Monde in 2010 in partnership with two other investors.  

The French version of The Huffington Post is not the first foray outside the United States for the site. A British version of The Huffington Post, which aggregates news, opinion articles and blogs from its own journalists and outside sources, was started last year.

There is also a version for Canada, with an edition for the French-speaking part of the country also in the works.

The site has also announced plans for a Spanish edition, in partnership with Grupo Prisa, publisher of the newspaper El País.

In the interview with Elle, Ms. Sinclair fired back at critics who have questioned her continuing support for her husband, after he admitted to a liaison with the chambermaid, which he insisted was consensual.

‘‘I am neither a saint nor a victim,’’ she said. ‘‘I am a free woman.’’

‘‘Unconditional support does not exist,’’ she added. ‘‘One supports if one has decided to support. Nobody knows what happens in a private relationship, and I deny anyone the right to judge mine. I am comfortable with my decisions, my actions, I made them independently.’’

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0eabb1811956f5b426180e0b7479f6a1

I.M.F. Names Replacement as Chief Is Picked Out of Lineup

Mr. Lipsky, the I.M.F.’s first deputy managing director, is a former U.S. Treasury executive and onetime banker at JP Morgan. William Murray, an I.M.F. spokesman, said that Mr. Lipsky, who has been overseeing the logistics of the bailout of the Greek economy, would meet with members of the I.M.F. board in Washington later in the day, according to Reuters.

“In line with standard I.M.F. procedures, John Lipsky, first deputy managing director, is acting managing director while the M.D. is not in D.C.,” Mr. Murray said in a statement. “Mr. Lipsky will chair the informal Board session today.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, was awaiting arraignment on Sunday evening in Manhattan. The New York Police Department formally arrested him at 2:15 that morning “on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year-old chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday” about 1 p.m., Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said.

Meanwhile, the woman who told the police she was sexually attacked by Mr. Strauss-Kahn picked him out of a police lineup Sunday. After making the identification, she left in a police van amid a gaggle of reporters.

Reached by telephone, Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer, said he would be representing Mr. Strauss-Kahn with William Taylor, a lawyer in Washington.

Early Sunday morning, Mr. Brafman said that his client “will plead not guilty.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to become the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, was apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first-class section of the jetliner, and immediately turned over to detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, officials said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, had been expected to declare his candidacy soon, after three and a half years as the leader of the fund, which is based in Washington. He was considered by many to have done a good job in a period of intense global economic strain, when the institution itself had become vital to the smooth running of the world and the European economy.

His apprehension came at about 4:40 p.m. at Kennedy Airport, when two detectives of the Port Authority suddenly boarded Air France Flight 23, as the plane idled at the departure gate, said John P. L. Kelly, a spokesman for the agency.

“It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure,” Mr. Kelly said. “They were just about to close the doors.”

Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn was traveling alone and that he was not handcuffed during the apprehension.

“He complied with the detectives’ directions,” Mr. Kelly said.

The Port Authority officers were acting on information from the Police Department, whose detectives had been investigating the assault of a female employee of Sofitel New York, at 45 West 44th Street, near Times Square. Working quickly, the city detectives learned he had boarded a flight at Kennedy Airport to leave the country.

Though Mr. Strauss-Kahn received generally high marks for his stewardship of the fund, his reputation was tarnished in 2008 by an affair with a Hungarian economist who was a subordinate there. The fund decided to stand by him despite concluding that he had shown poor judgment in the affair. Mr. Strauss-Kahn issued an apology to I.M.F. employees and to his wife, Anne Sinclair, an American-born French journalist.

In his statement then, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said, “I am grateful that the board has confirmed that there was no abuse of authority on my part, but I accept that this incident represents a serious error of judgment.” The economist, Piroska Nagy, left the fund as part of a buyout of nearly 600 employees instituted by Mr. Strauss-Kahn to cut costs.

In the New York case, Mr. Browne said that it was about 1 p.m. on Saturday when the maid, a 32-year-old woman, entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite — Room 2806 — believing it was unoccupied. Mr. Browne said that the suite, which cost $3,000 a night, had a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom, and that Mr. Strauss-Khan had checked in on Friday.

As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,” Mr. Browne said, adding, “He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed.” He locked the door to the suite, Mr. Browne said.

“She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,” Mr. Browne added.

At some point during the assault, the woman broke free, Mr. Browne said, and “she fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911.” He added, “When the police arrived, he was not there.” Mr. Browne said Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared to have left in a hurry. In the room, investigators found his cellphone, which he had left behind, and one law enforcement official said that the investigation uncovered forensic evidence that would contain DNA.

William K. Rashbaum and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/nyregion/imf-names-replacement-as-chief-awaits-arraignment.html?partner=rss&emc=rss