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France

How a finance trial turned into a major political scandal

©

Latest update : 2009-09-30

The Clearstream trial gets under way on September 21. FRANCE 24 takes a look back on the case which started off as a high-profile financial trial but turned into a murky political scandal.

The financial imbroglio - Clearstream 1

 

2001

February: French journalist Denis Robert and Ernest Backes, a former Clearstream employee, release the book “Revelations$”. They describe the Luxembourg-based financial institution Clearstream as a money laundering and tax evasion machine used by shell companies, organised crime, and prominent individuals all over the world.

 

May: Luxemburg judges open a judicial inquiry into allegations of money laundering and tax fraud.

 

June: French judges start an investigation into the sale of six French frigates to Taiwan in 1991, whose contracts may have included covert kickbacks to Clearstream accounts.

 

2002

January: Denis Robert, who has gained access to a new list of Clearstream account-holders in October 2001, releases the book “Black Box”, the second part of his investigation into the Luxemburg-based company.

 

2004

November: The Clearstream case is dismissed by Luxemburg.

 

2008

October: The French judge in charge of investigating the Taiwan frigates deal, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, has to dismiss the case after being repeatedly denied access to classified information.

 

The political scandal - Clearstream 2

 

2004

January: The French interior, Dominique de Villepin, summons General Philippe Rondot. According to the senior intelligence official, the future Prime minister asks him to investigate a list of prominent politicians and businessmen holding accounts at Clearstream. Rondot says he received the list from Jean-Louis Gergorin, an executive at European aerospace conglomerate EADS, in the presence of Dominique de Villepin. Memos from the General’s personal notebook show that Nicolas Sarkozy was also mentioned during this meeting, something that Villepin has repeatedly denied.

 

Rondot investigates and subsequently finds out that the Clearstream account lists have been falsified.

 

May - June: An anonymous informant sends Renaud Van Ruymbeke, the French judge investigating the Taiwan frigate deal, several letters and a disc containing details of Clearstream accounts apparently held by prominent French citizens. This list includes Nicolas Sarkozy, current FMI chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Airbus vice-president, and several other prominent politicians and businessmen.

 

September: French judges open an official investigation after the Airbus vice-president fils a lawsuit for libellous accusation against the anonymous informant.

 

2005

November: After further inquiries into the alleged Clearstream bank accounts, investigating judge van Ruymbeke establishes that the lists, in particular those attributed to Sarkozy, are falsified and result from an attempt at manipulation.

 

2006

January: Sarkozy declares himself a civil plaintiff in the case. A new judicial inquiry is launched into renewed claims of libellous accusations.

 

May: Jean-Louis Gergorin admits to being the anonymous informant who sent documents to Judge Van Ruymbeke. He says he obtained the fake lists from an IT specialist at EADS, Imad Lahoud.

 

June: Gergorin and Lahoud are indicted for libel and forgery.

 

December: Journalist Denis Robert and Florian Bourges, an auditing firm employee, are indicted for possession of stolen goods and breach of trust.

 

2007

June: General Rondot tells judges that Villepin had told him in January 2004 that he was following the “instructions” of the president, Jacques Chirac, who subsequently refuses to be questioned by the judges.

 

July: Judges search Villepin’s Paris residence and office. He again denies involvement but is summoned to stand trial for “complicity in libellous accusations, forgery, possession of stolen goods, and breach of trust”.

 

2008

November: Due to suspicions that Villepin played a part in the scheme to undermine arch-rival Sarkozy, the case involving the former Prime Minister as well as Gergorin, Lahoud, Robert and Bourges moves to a criminal court.

 

September 21, 2009

Start of the “Clearstream Affair” trial for the five defendants.

Date created : 2009-09-18

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