France does scandals well, and the latest one there has really explosive potential. It goes by the name of Clearstream, which has its comic touch, considering how murky everything is.
The scandal begins in January 2004. The then minister of foreign affairs, and later prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, had a meeting with two friends. One was General Philippe Rondot, lately head of the military secret service, and the other was Jean Louis Gergorin, a highly placed executive with the aerospace company EADS. At this meeting Gergorin produced a list of secret and therefore illegal bank accounts supposedly held by prominent French people in Clearstream, a finance company in Luxembourg. On the list were two accounts attributed to Nicolas Sarkozy, then minister of the interior and the main political rival of Villepin for the coming election for President to succeed Jacques Chirac. General Rondot was asked to investigate. The list proved a forgery. Press commentary now suggests that Villepin was trying to smear Sarkozy, and even more damaging, that President Chirac was the originator of this unlovely stratagem.
The Clearstream list was also sent anonymously to a magistrate, Renaud van Ruymbeke, who was investigating bribes paid in connection with the sale of warships to Taiwan. This magistrate is known to have met Gergorin, and his involvement adds another level of mystery. Two other magistrates have meanwhile confiscated the detailed notes of General Rondot’s investigation. As the evidence piles up, and leaks are published bit by bit, Villepin has been warned by the two magistrates that he has to answer to several serious charges, including complicity in calumny, resort to forgery, and concealing theft (in French, recel de vol.) He has had to post bail for about $300,000, and most injuriously he is forbidden to contact Chirac. He promises to take the gloves off in his own defence.
Forgery, false allegations, abuse of power, conspiracy apparently calling on military intelligence, and implicating the offices of president and leading politicians, why, think Clearstream, think Dreyfus.