Tuesday, June 24, 2008

tahiti judge astonishes paris elite

















president gaston flosse in 2003, during a visit to
french polynesia by jacques chirac


NEWS

Officials from a Japanese bank claim to have found "no evidence" of an account held for former French president Jacques Chirac.

The claim is made in one of seventeen documents seized by an investigatory magistrate from Pape'ete, Jean-François Redonnet, according to French media reports.

Redonnet astonished Paris circles when he arrived from Tahiti with search warrants for the offices of the DGSE, Directorate General of External Security, a French equivalent of America's Central Intelligence Agency.

'A LITTLE JUDGE'

One site, Lalettrea, headlined its coverage - Le petit juge qui grandit subitement - "A little judge suddenly grows up."

Reporting on the search, another site, Le Point, quotes sources as saying the "atmosphere was relaxed" as the judge settled in at a meeting room of the DGSE on Mortier boulevard.

The next day, Redonnet also served a warrant at the offices of Jean Veil, lawyer for Jacques Chirac.

TARTS

Under the headline, "Tartlets for the judge" - Le Journal de Dimanche - the Sunday Journal - described the judge's mission to Paris as being "without precedence."

Accompanied by prosecutor Jean Bianconi and two policemen, Justice Redonnet had to wait three hours at the offices of Jean Veil, as he was in court.

But once the laywer for Jacques Chirac did arrive, he delivered an equally civil reception, offering "tartlets" and sandwiches - "very courteous."

'NO EVIDENCE'

News there was "no evidence" of a Chirac account at the former Tokyo Sawa Bank was widely reported in French media. At least, no evidence, so far.

Tokyo Star Bank since 2001, officials claimed they only have access to accounts as far back as 1999 - nearly two years after JPK disappeared.

Most French media overlooked this date. The bank officials also added there was no way to tell if an account was set up for Chirac under a 'shell' name.

SEALED

Judge Redonnet was held back from using the bank letter and other documents as they are still sealed under national security laws.

A judge from another jurisdiction, of liberty and detention, decided on the bank letter, saying it had already been made public in January with its publication by Le Point.

"Seizure of documents ... is necessary to reveal the truth when they would likely help determine whether a theory of political motivation, namely the desire to eliminate a journalist who had knowledge of the existence, in a Japanese bank, of a bank account opened on behalf of Jacques Chirac, or not, based on objective factors, " judge Brigette Delpech wrote in her decision.

RETRACTION

Completing his Paris mission, Judge Redonnet interviewed General Philippe Rondot.

An intelligence specialist, he conducted a search in 2001 for the account, at the request of the Elysée. Five years later, in March 2006 before justices investigating the Clearstream affair, he said that an account for Jacques Chirac existed at the Tokyo Sowa Bank and was credited 300 million francs to 1996, allegedly via cultural foundation.

General Rondot later retracted his remarks, saying the account did not exist, a claim he repeated for the Tahiti judge.

PRESS STIFLED

One news site operating under the safety of "satire" described the judge's journeys as an example of an official investigation stifled by the press.

Bakchich reported how the "venerable" news group, Agence France Press, held off from reporting the latest news about the investigation until late afternoon, after other sites had been carrying the news all day. Just five "laconic" lines featured in the AFP report, reflecting a country where the most daring comments from so-called satire sites, and journalists face heavy fines, even prison, even when reporting facts.

Then, in May, the Sarkozy government introduced a bill that would require journalists to reveal their sources when "a pressing imperative requires it" - wording that unions described as too vague.

LINKS

judge seizes documents from french spy agency
french parliament splits on journalism bill
lawyer's office searched in case of missing french polynesian journalist


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