Tuesday, September 14, 2010

France's Plutocracy - the Bettencourt Scandal shakes the Republic

A scandal is shaking France, with all the ingredients of a mystery thriller: an aging heiress, her alleged gifts of manilla envelopes stuffed with money for illicit campaign contributions, an island in the Seychelles owned through secret accounts in Luxembourg, a butler who surreptitiously records his employer’s conversations, other offshore accounts and tax-avoiding schemes centered on Switzerland, and sordid political implications that reach high into the national leadership, including the president of the republic, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Known as L’Affaire Bettencourt, after the heiress, Lilliane Bettencourt, the scandal has been grabbing headlines in Europe for weeks, as police carry out searches and the internet hums with newly-disclosed treasures of information on the case. Bettencourt, worth $20 billion, is heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune.

Such a scandal reveals, in all its sordid detail, the inner workings of France's plutocratic system. Thanks to the butler’s recordings, comments by accountants, and other evidence dug up by the judicial police, we see how the super-rich pour money into political campaigns through secret contributions in defiance of strict limits in the law. The facts of the case are not yet proven and perhaps never will be, but there is strong evidence in the form of a cash withdrawal of fifty thousand euros just prior to an alleged meeting at which money was said to have been funneled secretively into Sarkozy’s campaign war chest.

Then there are the offshore bank accounts and properties that Madame Bettencourt owns, in spite of French laws banning such tax-evasion arrangements. Ironically, Eric Woerth, then Budget Minister, made public gestures to close down offshore abuses, while his wife was working at the time for the money managers of Mme. Bettencourt, who were actively maintaining large offshore holdings. As treasurer of Sarkozy’s party, Woerth was almost certainly involved in the illicit contribution scheme and he has now resigned from that post. But he continues as Minister of Labor, in charge of a major rollback of French public pensions. To curry favor with Woerth, Mme. Bettencourt’s key financial advisor gave a cushy job to Woerth’s wife, according to his own report in one of the tape recorded conversations.

Recently the scandal has taken another nasty turn. When Le Monde newspaper published leaked police documents revealing further evidence of Eric Woerth’s complicity, France’s domestic intelligence service opened a secret investigation to track down the leaker – in direct violation of national laws protecting journalists’ sources. Le Monde has accused President Sarkozy of himself ordering the investigation, in defiance of a press law he introduced into the National Assembly in January. Sarkozy is fighting for his political future, and no holds are barred to protect the plutocracy and their dear friends in government.

1 comment:

  1. Corruption is not new in politics. It's not new within the Justice Departments around the world or even at the U.N. or at the highest levels of government. Let's face it. Money talks and people walk like the billionaire who was recently arrested in the U.S. for sex trafficking little girls to his homes and just like magic, he was set free compliments of the U.S. Justice Department because he has friends in high places. Too bad, for the victims and probably more to come. Judicial officers take bribes and then look the other way, but try to prove it! But, the little guy who steals a bottle of cough syrup goes to jail for 25 years in the U.S. Order your copy today, "Fight Back Legal Abuse," and read 25 years of research, documentation, short stories of interviews with victims of legal abuse, and access self-help should you or your loved ones, who probably know very little about the dark side of justice, can empower yourselves with knowledge. Read tips on "How to protect yourself from your own attorney." This new powerful thought-provoking release "Fight Back Legal Abuse," written by long time Consumer Advocate for Justice, Rose Colombo, and a woman who made a difference when she founded the first self-help group in the U.S., 1989, "Women Fight Back for Legal Justice." Colombo has first-hand experiences. "Fight Back Legal Abuse" is a new powerful and thought-provoking release about the dark side of justice and can be ordered on Amazon.com and BN.com or visit me at www.fightbacklegalabuse.com