Sarkozy erred on rich friend's state contracts

11th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy was wrong to claim that billionaire tycoon Vincent Bollore, who lent him a yacht for a luxury holiday, has no business dealings with the French state, government records show.

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy was wrong to claim that billionaire tycoon Vincent Bollore, who lent him a yacht for a luxury holiday, has no business dealings with the French state, government records show.

Critics rounded on Sarkozy over his high-budget break on board of Bollore's 60-metre yacht in Malta, where he flew Monday using the industrialists' private jet, accusing the right-winger of unhealthy links to big business.

Both Bollore and Sarkozy -- whose friendship goes back 20 years -- denied accusations of a conflict of interest, saying Bollore's business and media empire had no dealings with the French state.

"Vincent Bollore is one of the great French industrialists who has done a great deal for the French economy. He has never worked with the French state," the 52-year-old Sarkozy, who refused to apologise for the trip, said.

But according to online French government records, Bollore's group has won state contracts worth up to 40 million euros in the past two years.

Last year, the Bollore group's SDV logistics subsidiary won a contract to operate an internal courrier service for the foreign ministry over a four-year period, a deal worth between 1.4 million and 5.6 million euros

In June 2005, SDV was awarded a four-year contract to run a commercial air freight service for the French defence ministry, worth an estimated 36 million euros.

In December 2006, when Sarkozy was interior minister, a 342,329-euro contract from his ministry to build a secure cabin inside the police department in the southeastern city of Grenoble was attributed to Bollore SA, a private firm with no links to Vicent Bollore.

The Bollore business, founded in 1822 to specialise in paper for making bibles, now has annual sales of nearly six billion euros (8.2 billion dollars) and employs more than 32,000 people throughout the world.

Its interests range from transport and international logistics, particularly in Africa, to plastic film for packaging, the distribution of energy, printing terminals, ticketing machines and check-in terminals.

In recent years it has its media interests, launching a French cable TV channel called "Direct 8" and two free newspapers.

Bollore is the biggest shareholder in French advertising group Havas, owning 31.0 percent, and holds 29.0 percent of British advertising giant Aegis.

In September he bought 40 percent of the holding company behind French market research and opinion polling company CSA. His group also has interests in audio and film production and wireless Internet access.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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