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France

French billionaire Senator Dassault ‘paid for votes’

© afp

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2013-09-16

French Senator and billionaire Serge Dassault paid hundreds of thousands of euros to influence a mayoral election in 2010, according to a French news site that on Sunday presented new evidence “he will be unable to deny”.

One of France’s richest men – conservative senator, industrialist and newspaper proprietor Serge Dassault – paid huge bribes to influence a 2010 mayoral election, investigative news site Mediapart said on Sunday as it published secretly-taped recordings for the first time.

The allegations date back to December 2012, when satirical and investigative weekly Le Canard Enchainé accused Dassault, who was mayor of the surburb Corbeil-Essonnes in southern Paris from 1995 to 2009, of paying hundreds of thousands of euros in bribes to ensure the electoral victory of his successor Jean-Pierre Bechter.

On Sunday, Mediapart published secretly-taped recordings of the senator, a member of the opposition right-wing UMP party, telling two men that he could not complete the illegal payments because he had come under police surveillance.

Le Canard Enchainé had previously hinted at the existence of the tapes. Mediapart said that their publication in full for the first time means “Dassault, this time, will be unable to deny the allegations against him.”

Dassault is the head of the Dassault Group, whose portfolio includes conservative daily Le Figaro, as well as Dassault Aviation, which manufactures military and civilian jet aircraft. He is France’s fifth-richest man.

Men alleged victims of attempted murder

The recordings were made in November 2012, apparently by two disgruntled “fixers” who had not been paid an alleged 1.7 million euros for drumming up voter support in exchange for cash in working class areas of Corbeil-Essonnes.

Le Canard Enchainé alleged a month later that payments had been organised through a Lebanese account.

In the tapes Dassault is heard telling the men: “I can’t pay any more, nothing can be done as it is illegal. I’m under police surveillance.

“I’ve paid all the money, and I can’t give a penny more. Lebanon is out. There is no one there now. It’s all over.”

Three months after the meeting, according to Mediapart, the two men in question were victims of an attempted shooting.

Parliamentary immunity

The new evidence, which Mediapart says it has “authenticated”, is likely to intensify a judicial probe into Dassault, who has long been suspected by investigators of corruption.

In July, judges investigating attempted murder charges demanded that Dassault’s parliamentary immunity be revoked so that he could be investigated – a demand that was refused by a Senate committee.

According to Mediapart, it will be much harder now for the Senate to protect the billionaire, who has not publicly responded to the latest allegations.
 

Date created : 2013-09-16

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