France: That Other Dossier-Based, Media-Driven Factoid War

Some of the journalists on this list were paid off by Cedel. Under the headline “The bank that buys journalists,” the English satirical newspaper Punch revealed, in late 1997, that some of the journalists on this list, freelancing for such publications as the Financial Times, Euroweek, London Financial News and the International Financing Review, had received comfortable sums–Punch mentions a figure of 600,000 francs per year–in return for, among other things, criticizing Cedel’s competitor, Euroclear, and “building up the international profile” of Cedel’s CEO. –Robert & Backes, from Révélations, on bribery and cooption as a press relations strategy in the struggle for control of the Clearstream board. See Crooked Journos: Continental Precursors

MAM sera entendue comme témoin le 21 décembre: the trial of former French prime minister Villepin for conspiring to commit a felonious gabbling ratfink in the AFFAIRE CLEARSTREAM marches on.

Given that it involves the false imputation of bribe-taking and big, fat Swiss bank accounts to political enemies of a faction within the French government, as a part of the après-Chirac succession struggle, the case interests me.

It is also kind of in my old editorial beat, which included the clearing & settlement industry — although I mostly always just focused on the technology of automated beancounting, a much less dramatic, much nerdier subject.

For a general chronology of the case, see

It goes something like this:

[In Clearstream I] … judges received, from anonymous correspondents, lists on which figured the names of a number of political heavyweights (Nicolas Sarkozy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, …), major business figures and even stars of show business (Laetitia Casta). All of them allegedly used the same financial utility, Clearstream, to receive their money. … The second phase of the inquiry, Clearstream II, was unleashed in 2004, when it emerged that the Clearstream I files were phony. A new inquiry was opened into “making of false charges.” Two new judges, d’Huy and Pons, were put in charge of the case. Their task is to answer the question: Who is seeking to heap opprobrium on [bork, ratfink, Segrettify, smear] these public figures?

We are watching a similar case in Brazil.

Bahia-born, MIT-trained investment banker and asset manager Daniel Dantas hired “global risk management firm” Kroll to prepare a similar dossier on government and police officials here in Brazil, and approached Veja magazine about publishing it.

Veja executive editor Márcio Aith flew to Zurich to meet with Kroll’s point man on the case, former CIA agent Frank Holder, in October 2005. All this by Veja‘s own account.

Veja magazine did publish the “dossier,” in May 2006, saying that, while it could not verify the authenticity of the documentary evidence underlying the charges — “It could well be a fraud” — it nevertheless found the charges plausible.

See

This is a rumor that Veja continues to monger. See

In any event, from a journalistic point of view, the case highlights the risks of anonymous sourcing in reporting on scandalous stories. If you vouch for nonsense, you get a reputation for purveying nonsense.

And “toxic sludge is good for you” marketing of this approach to journalism cannot hold the reputational debacle you suffer for doing so at bay forever. Just ask Judy Miller.

(Veja‘s “exposé” on alleged payments to the Sex Senator‘s mistress by a lobbyist for a public-works contractor, for example, appears to have been based on a single source: The mistress’s palimony lawyer. The same lawyer reportedly also negotiated the mistress’s “tasteful,” “Monica bares all!” appearance in Veja‘s sister publication, Playboy Brasil. Veja did not identify its source. Ecce Veja. See

The Nouvel Observateur notes that Chirac’s former Defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, currently Sarkozy’s minister of the Interior, will once again be called to testify in the case.

The background to that development is a note written by General Rondot, whose house was raided in 2006 as part of a search for “The Crow” — the anonymous source of forged Clearstream accounting records that implicated political enemies of Villepin and, among others, if I have this straight, the chairman of the Airbus consortium.

Rondot admitted to his part in cooking up the gabbling ratfink, and charged that Villepin put him up to it. Did Chirac put Villepin up to it?

That is the question that has the land of “cheese-eating surrrender monkeys” — a talking point promoted by Dubya supporters when the French government took the position that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were probably nothing but a mass distraction — all abuzz!

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Nihil sub sole novum: Snippet of the Frank Holder dossier as it ran in Veja. Bastos was the minister of justice; Lacerda, head of the federal police (now head of the “Tupi CIA”); Tuma, a former head of the federal police and PFL Senator (now defected to the PTB); Silva, the president of Brazil; Palocci, Dirceu, and Gushiken, top aides to President Squid.

The note in question suggests that Rondot met with a top aide to the minister of Defense, the (stunningly elegant — I saw her interviewed not long ago) Mme. Alliot-Marie, in 2004. And that matters related to the Clearstream affair were on the agenda.

Did MAM know of the ongoing ratfink? What did MAM know and when did MAM know it? Stay tuned for another episode of — The Gallic (Media-Driven Nonexistent Factoid) Wars!

Michèle Alliot-Marie sera entendue le 21 décembre comme témoin dans le cadre de l’affaire Clearstream, a-t-on appris vendredi 14 décembre dans l’entourage de la ministre de l’Intérieur. Fin novembre, les juges d’instruction Jean-Marie d’Huy et Henri Pons avaient écrit à la Chancellerie pour lui demander de saisir le Conseil des ministres afin d’autoriser l’audition en qualité de simple témoin de la ministre.

The former Defense minister and current Minister of the Interior will give testimony to the court in the Villepin trial on December 21, as a witness in the Clearstream case, sources close to the Ministry of the Interior learned on December 14. In late November, presiding judges Jean-Marie d’Huy and Henri Pons wrote to the foreign ministry asking it to petition the Cabinet to authorize the minister’s deposition in the capacity as a simple witness in the case.

Les juges avaient formulé cette demande à la suite de la confrontation entre le général Philippe Rondot et Philippe Marland, ancien directeur de cabinet de “MAM” au ministère de la Défense. Entendu par les juges en octobre, le général à la retraite avait expliqué avoir eu un entretien avec Philippe Marland le 27 mai 2004, au cours duquel il lui aurait fait lire ses notes n° 3 et 4, reconstituées par des experts informatiques.

The judges formulated that demand after a face-to-face encounter between General Rondot and Phillipe Marland, MAM’s former chief of staff at Defense. Questioned by judges in October, the retired general explained that he had a meeting with Philippe Marland on May 27, 2004, during which he says he read him his Notes No. 3 and 4, which were recovered by computer experts from his files.

Dans la première, le militaire écrivait notamment que Jean-Louis Gergorin aurait reçu instruction de Dominique de Villepin de rencontrer le juge Renaud van Ruymbeke. Lors de cette confrontation, Philippe Marland a indiqué ne pas se souvenir du contenu de ces notes. Michèle Alliot-Marie a été entendue le 9 novembre 2006 pendant plus de 11 heures par les deux juges d’instruction. L’ancien Premier ministre Dominique de Villepin a été mis en examen dans ce dossier pour “complicité de dénonciation calomnieuse”.

In the first of these, the military man wrote, notably, that Jean-Louis Gergorin had received instructions from Dominique de Villepin to meet with judge Renaud van Ruymbeke. During their face to face encounter before the court, Marland had said he did not recall the contents of these notes. MAM was questioned on November 9, 2006 for 11 hours by the two presiding judges. Ex-prime minister Villepin is under investigation for “complicity in making libelous false accusations” in the case.

Jean-Louis Gergorin, l’un des anciens vice-présidents d’EADS et un informaticien de cette société, Imad Lahoud, sont suspectés par les juges d’avoir falsifié les fameux listings Clearstream pour impliquer des personnalités. Listings transmis ensuite à la justice de façon “anonyme”.

Gergorin, a former VP of EADS [the Airbus consortium], and an technology exec at the company, Imad Lahoud, are suspected of having forged the famous Clearstream account list in order to incriminate certain public figures. These lists were passed to the court in an “anonymous” manner.

Si le premier a reconnu être le fameux “corbeau” qui a adressé à la justice les listings, le second nie son implication dans ce dossier. Dominique de Villepin est quant à lui soupçonné d’avoir orchestré cette manipulation pour déstabiliser Nicolas Sarkozy, devenu aujourd’hui président de la République.

While Gergorin has admitted to being the famous “Crow” who sent this list to the court, Lahoud denies playing a part in preparing the dossier. Villepin is suspected of having orchestrated this manipulation in order to undermine Nicolas Sarkoz, who is now the president of the Republic.

A coworker of Gallic origins lent me Révélation$ a few years back. I never returned it. Sorry. That was asinine of me. You can come down to Brazil and pick it up if you like, ma cherie.

Fascinating book, based on leaked records from the financial clearinghouse, from which Robert and Backes inferred the existence of undeclared ghost accounts at the institution, among other things.

They also made some remarkable claims about journalists who make a living as paid, undisclosed, undercover gabbling ratfink artists, based on documents from Clearstream’s corporate communications department. See

One of the book’s authors is in a lot of legal trouble over some of the conclusions arrived at in the book. This Wikipedia summary, probably mounted by Robert supporters, seems like a decent place to start digging into that aspect of the case:

Le 27 janvier 2006, Denis Robert est inculpé au Luxembourg pour injure, calomnie et diffamation. La plainte vise la dénonciation dans le livre Révélation$ d’une transaction entre la banque BCCI et la BGL. Denis Robert a qualifié ce transfert d’« illégal », alors qu’une décision d’un tribunal de Luxembourg l’autorisait.

On January 27, 2006, Denis Robert was found guilty in Luxembourg for slander, defamation and calumny. The suit arose from the claim in his book about a transaction between the BCCI bank and the BGL. Robert called that transaction “illegal,” despite the fact that a Luxembourg court authorized it.

You remember BCCI, right?

Les soutiens de Denis Robert soulignent que les mêmes plaintes de la BGL ont déjà été déboutées en France à deux reprises. La Cour de cassation a donné raison à la BGL et les procédures vont donc reprendre. Denis Robert est également poursuivi par Clearstream ainsi que Florian Bourges, ex-auditeur d’Arthur Andersen qui avait utilisé des fichiers de Clearstream et les avait remis à Denis Robert (cf La Boite Noire) .

Robert’s supporters emphasize that the same complaints by BGL have been dismissed in France on two occasions. The French high court, however, has ruled in favor of BGL and those cases will be retried. Robert is also being pursued by Clearstream because Florian Bourges, a former Arthur Andersen audit who had access to Clearstream files, passed them to Robert. (See [Robert’s book The Black Box]

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Ce même don de document lui vaut une mise en examen en France pour recel de vol et d’abus de confiance dans le cadre d’une plainte déposée à Paris par Clearstream.

That transaction earned Robert an investigation in France for receiving stolen property and violation of confidentiality, based on a complaint filed in Paris by Clearstream.

Denis Robert risque une peine de prison, une amende dont le montant peut être très élevé au Luxembourg, en sus des frais d’avocats. Par une ironie du sort, c’est l’espace judiciaire européen qu’il a contribué à établir avec l’Appel de Genève qui permet aujourd’hui cette procédure à la justice luxembourgeoise .

Robert runs the risk of a prison term, which could amount to 3 years in Luxembourg, plus paying the court costs of the plaintiffs. Ironically enough, it was the EU anticorruption measure that Robert himself advocated that made it possible for him to be tried in a Luxembourg court.

Plusieurs pétitions de soutien ont été ouvertes, un blog de soutien l’aide à collecter des fonds[3], ainsi qu’un concert de soutien le 17 avril 2007 à La Cigale à Paris, avec Didier Super, Miossec, Cali, et le Groland Sound System.

A number of petitions in support have been circulated, a blog supporting Robert has helped him raise funds for his defense, and a concert in support was held at La Cigale in Paris, featuring [French pop music acts that are not Serge Gainsbourg, whose oeuvre is the entire extent of my knowledge about French pop music these days.]

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