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France

Fraudsters target Sarkozy’s office

Video by Olivia SALAZAR WINSPEAR

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-04-21

The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy (pictured) has confirmed that a group of financial criminals, using a bank account in China, attempted to defraud the French presidential office of two million euros.

Criminals managed to defraud a state agency of 980,000 euros of public money – and then attempted to do the same thing to the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a statement released Wednesday, Sarkozy’s office - also known as the Elysée Palace - confirmed that a group of “organised criminals managed to get hold of the Elysée’s bank details.”

According to Christian Fremont, Sarkozy’s chief of staff, the fraudsters were probably French con artists living abroad

“They tried it out with a number of organisations, and sometimes their fraud was successful.”

Transfer to China

According to the French satirical weekly the Canard Enchainé, the group first targeted a national agency that provides holiday vouchers to companies, called the ANCV.

A fake demand for a transfer of 998,000 euros was sent through to the agency, together with a fake mobile telephone number claiming to be that of an ANCV director.

According to the newspaper, a French treasury official rang the number for confirmation that the transfer was legitimate - which was duly given - and on March 25 the money was wired to a bank in China.

“No security procedures were undertaken,” the report claims.

Three days later, buoyed by confidence, the fraudsters made another attempt to defraud the ANCV of 2.5 million euros. This time the transfer was refused.

Attempt at Sarkozy's office

But this did not put the criminals off: their next target was the country’s highest office.

On April 14, the crooks sent through a ‘bill’ for two million euros to Sarkozy’s office, apparently from an employee of Air France for official travel, again to be paid into a Chinese account.

“They are very smart, they knew our organisation perfectly," Fremont said in a statement.
The treasury official responsible for presidential accounts however noted that the claim did not have the right security codes and called the Elysée for verification – which was not given.

French police have opened an investigation into the cases and officials were put on alert for similar fraud attempts.

Date created : 2011-04-20

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