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A glossary of terms in the Clearstream saga

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-09-19

Faked lists of dodgy bank accounts, shadowy intelligence officials and clandestine committees allegedly bent on the political destruction of Nicolas Sarkozy before he became president: the "who" and "what" behind the Clearstream affair.

Cabinet Noir: A French term for a secret committee. In 2004, Yves Bertrand, head of the intelligence service of the French police at the time, is suspected of forming a "cabinet noir" at the behest of then President Jacques Chirac and then Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin. Its mission was to discredit and force from office Nicolas Sarkozy, who was at the time finance minister. Sarkozy was on a political fast track and impinging on de Villepin's presidential ambitions. The existence of this secret committee has never been definitively established.

Clearstream: Clearstream is a Luxemburg-based clearing house for funds and a subdivision of Deutsche Borse. French journalist Denis Robert has investigated the company and written three books — "Revelation$" in 2001, followed by "La Boite Noire" (Black Box) in 2002 and "Clearstream, l'Enquete" (The Inquiry) in 2006. The company is at the heart of the major politico-financial scandal involving lists of fake accounts suggesting that senior politicians had hidden huge financial kickbacks for the sale of military equipment.

Frigates to Taiwan: In 1991, France sold six frigates to Taiwan. A court of inquiry was convened in 2001 to investigate alleged kickbacks in connection to the sale. In 2004, Jean-Louis Gergorin, number two at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and close to the government at the time, gave Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke lists of alleged Clearstream accounts into which, it appeared, these kickbacks had been passed.

Intelligence services: Two senior officials from the French intelligence services are major witnesses in the trial.

General Philippe Rondot, in charge of coordinating intelligence at the defence ministry from 1997-2005, had been tasked by de Villepin to conduct a parallel investigation into the Clearstream lists.

Yves Bertrand has long been suspected of setting up the "cabinet noir" with de Villepin to undermine political rival Sarkozy. He is accused by people close to Sarkozy of being the man who masterminded the faking of Clearstream lists.

Imad Lahoud, a former executive at EADS, got hold of the original Clearstream lists, those that had not been faked, for the the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security), an organisation for whom he did occasional counter-terrorrism work.

Lists: The lists of shadowy bank accounts allegedly held at Clearstream started the scandal when they were handed to Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke in reference to the sale of frigates to Taiwan. The lists, which proved to have been faked, included the names of senior politicians, including Sarkozy, then finance minister.

Notebooks: Yves Bertrand and Philippe Rondot, both linked to the Clearstream affair, habitually recorded their actions, thoughts, investigations and conversations in notebooks. These notes heavily implicate former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and former President Jacques Chirac in alleged connection to the scandal. These notebooks were seized by the courts and extensive excerpts have been published in French newspapers.

Date created : 2009-09-18