I was the mystery informant: EADS executive

18th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 18, 2006 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Gergorin, vice-president of the European defence company EADS, admitted Thursday that he is the mystery informant who launched the Clearstream dirty tricks scandal currently rocking the French government.

PARIS, May 18, 2006 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Gergorin, vice-president of the European defence company EADS, admitted Thursday that he is the mystery informant who launched the Clearstream dirty tricks scandal currently rocking the French government.

Gergorin, a 60-year-old foreign affairs expert who is a former associate of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, told Le Parisien newspaper that in mid-2004 it was he who sent a judge a list of alleged account holders at the Clearstream bank of Luxembourg.

In the last three weeks the scandal has dominated France's political agenda, with Villepin accused of setting up a secret investigation into claims that his arch-rival Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy benefited from illegal commissions paid via Clearstream.

The claims turned out to be false, but Sarkozy believes he was the victim of a smear campaign ahead of the 2007 presidential elections in which he is a leading candidate.

In a long interview with Le Parisien, Gergorin set out his version of the extraordinarily complex affair — tracing his interest in Clearstream back to the March 2003 death of his former boss, media and armaments tycoon Jean-Luc Lagardère.

Convinced that the 75-year-old Lagardère — who died of a rare disease — might have been murdered, Gergorin "had the idea of seeing if there was any unusual interest in Lagardère shares in the weeks leading to his death."

Gergorin said he had a secret source able to tap into the computer records at Clearstream, a bank which was aleady under suspicion as an alleged conduit for international money-laundering. The bank vehemently denies the allegation.

In late 2003 the source sent Gergorin a list of 70 alleged Clearstream account holders, who included several French politicians and senior civil servants as well as "Russian billionaires and mafia members". Sarkozy's name did not feature on the list, he said.

Gergorin said he tried to interest the government in the list — which he thought to be an important lead in the fight against international crime and terrorism — and eventually arranged a meeting with Villepin, who was then foreign minister, in January 2004.

This meeting was also attended by spymaster General Philippe Rondot, who was charged there with setting up a secret enquiry into the list.

In an important piece of evidence, Gergorin said that Sarkozy's name as a possible account holder was not brought up at the meeting. This corroborates Villepin's version of events, which is that he did not order an enquiry that specifically targeted Sarkozy.

According to Gergorin, Sarkozy's name appeared in a subsequent list of Clearstream account holders sent by his source in April 2004.

Frustrated that Rondot's enquiry did not appear to be making headway, Gergorin decided to approach judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, who was investigating illegal commissions paid in the sale of French warships to Taiwan.

"I turned down Van Ruymbeke's proposal that I make a formal submission (of the 70 names) ... so it was arranged that a summary of my information would be communicated to him. This was the anonymous letter of May 4, the first," Gergorin said.

A second list was sent to Van Ruymbeke in June 2004, this one bearing the names of Sarkozy and other politicians. But Gergorin refused to confirm whether he had also sent this one, saying he would reserve his comments for the judges looking into the affair.

Gergorin took leave of absence from EADS last week in order to defend himself in the Clearstream scandal.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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