Reprinted from NewsMax.com
France's Villepin Could Face Criminal Charges
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Friday, July 13, 2007
-- Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin could face
prosecution for criminal slander and other charges for his role in the
Clearstream scandal that erupted while he was a top aide to President
complex political-intelligence-financial scandal bears all the
hallmarks of a French film noir. But this is a thriller whose scenes
are being played out to a cynical public in the French media.
former prime minister's legal troubles began in 2004, when an unknown
informant provided a list of illegal offshore bank account holders to a
French judge, that included the name of Villepin's chief political
rival, Nicolas Sarkozy.
turned out that the list from the Belgian bank clearing house
Clearstream had been fabricated, apparently in a crude attempt to
destroy Sarkozy's political future. But instead of acquiescing to the
slander, Sarkozy filed a civil complaint that set in motion the French
an unprecedented move for France, investigative magistrates Jean-Marie
d'Huy and Henri Pons searched former Prime Minister Villepin's Parisian
residence on July 5, seizing classified memoranda, a laptop computer,
computer disks, and other documents relating to the scandal, according
to French media accounts on Thursday.
was not present at his home when the judges and a team of police
inspectors first arrived. Earlier in the day, he denied any wrongdoing.
long-time aide to Chirac, Villepin served for several years as chief of
staff at the Elysee Palace before Chirac appointed him as foreign
minister, interior minister, and ultimately as prime minister in 2004.
addition to seizing documents and the computer, the judges also
demanded that Villepin surrender his cell phone and his wallet. The
former prime minister said he didn't possess a wallet because a
security guard handled all his needs.
judges then demanded to search his official car, which was parked in
the courtyard downstairs, where they emptied out the overnight bag
Villepin kept in the trunk.
following day, they searched the office he was allowed to maintain in
an annex of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs complex on the Quai
d'Orsay, seizing a USB drive, eight Post-It notes, and greeting cards
sent to him by other suspects in the financial scandal. Three more
computers were also impounded.
examining the documents seized from Villepin, the magistrates issued a
subpoena demanding that the former primer minister appear in court on
July 27 to answer four criminal charges.
France, investigative magistrates conduct the equivalent of grand jury
investigations that subsequently can lead to criminal indictments
handled by government prosecutors.
the same time they were searching Villepin's residence and office, the
judges were hearing new testimony from the former French intelligence
chief, Gen. Philippe Rondot, and his secretary, identified in public
accounts only as "Stephane Q."
has admitted to investigators that he shredded several classified
memoranda concerning his investigation into the Clearstream lists after
meeting with Villepin on July 19, 2004.
Stephane Q. told investigators that she personally "erased all the sensitive files" after Rondot met with Villepin.
police computer analysts managed to retrieve the files from computer
disks seized in Rondot's office, and learned from them the name of the
"anonymous" source who delivered the falsified Clearstream account
lists to the French judge in 2004.
source, former French defense industry executive Jean-Louis Gergorin,
has admitted that he transmitted the fake bank account list that
included Sarkozy's name to another investigative judge, apparently on
orders from Villepin.
their account of these latest developments on Thursday, the Paris daily
Le Monde noted that the judges "have not given up going after Jacques
Chirac," since one of the classified notes destroyed by Rondot bore the
heading, "Special Operation PR."
The initials referred to "president de la Republique," a position then held by Chirac.
leaving office in May, Chirac has taken an extended holiday as guest of
the king of Morocco, and recently took up residence in a sumptuous
Paris penthouse owned by the family of assassinated Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri, a lifelong friend.
also faces criminal investigations on corruption charges stemming from
his 18 years as mayor of Paris — charges that were put on hold while he
was serving as president.
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