French judge says he received controversial lists ‘in good faith’

In his testimony before the Clearstream trial, French Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke said he received the falsified lists which lie at the heart of France’s “trial of the decade” in “good faith”.


The Clearstream trial, dubbed France’s “trial of the decade,” featured a role reversal Tuesday, with French investigating judge, Renaud van Ruymbeke, sitting not on the bench but on the witness stand.

Van Ruymbeke was the judge presiding over the 2001 investigation into a scandal in which French politicians allegedly received kickbacks as a reward for assisting with the sale of French frigates to the Taiwanese government. The money for the kickbacks was supposedly laundered through Clearstream, a Luxembourg-based financial concern.

The frigate investigation went nowhere, as van Ruymbeke was repeatedly denied access to information.

The judge’s involvement in the case took an odd turn in 2004, when he became the recipient of the falsified material, which had been sent to him anonymously by Jean-Louis Gergorin, a former vice-president of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company.

Van Ruymbeke told the court Tuesday, he was convinced that Gergorin sent him the lists in good faith. “By sending me lists anonymously Gergorin allowed me to verify whether the lists were real or fake,” said Van Ruymbeke.

Contradictory testimony marks trial

The four anonymous letters and a CD-ROM, which the judge received in 2004, contained lists of names of people allegedly holding secret bank accounts with Clearstream. It included Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then jockeying with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to run as their party's candidate to succeed President Jacques Chirac.

Judge Ruymbeke dismissed the case in October 2008 because of the lack of information, but his role continues in his capacity as witness.

The Clearstream trial, which began September 21, has been marked by contradictory testimony.

On Monday, key witness General Philippe Rondot appeared in court to discuss his notes, which claim that de Villepin clearly mentioned Sarkozy in connection to Clearstream at a meeting held on January 7, 2004. This, however, contradicts de Villepin’s statements last week, when he took the stand and flatly denied the notes were an accurate reflection of the conversation.

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