Top Elf swindler Alfred Sirven dead at 78

13th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - Alfred Sirven, one of the key figures in the Elf corruption trial in France, died of a heart attack at the age of 78, his lawyers said Sunday.

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - Alfred Sirven, one of the key figures in the Elf corruption trial in France, died of a heart attack at the age of 78, his lawyers said Sunday.

Sirven, former number two at the French oil giant, was sentenced to five years in jail in November 2003 and fined EUR 1 million (USD 1.29 million) for embezzling large sums in the early 1990s from a slush fund at the then state-owned concern.

He was freed on bail last year pending an appeal whose verdict is due next month.

Sirven died at his home in the Normandy resort of Deauville on Saturday, his lawyers said.

After the corruption allegations at Elf emerged in the late 1990s, Sirven disappeared for four years. He was eventually located in the Philippines and extradited to France in 2001.

Reports at the time said that he swallowed the SIM card of his mobile telephone as police arrived, in order to stop investigators tracing his contacts.

In the same year Sirven was given a four year jail term in the trial of former foreign minister Roland Dumas, who was accused of benefiting from the Elf slush fund. Dumas was later cleared on appeal.

Sirven was in jail at the start of the main Elf trial in March 2003, in which 37 people faced charges of embezzlement.

He was reported to have told friends that he knew enough "to bring down the Republic 20 times over," but in the end he failed to carry out his implicit threat to name senior politicians who took money from the Elf fund.

A flamboyant, gravel-voiced character, Sirven was a member of the wartime French resistance as a youth and fought in the Korean War before serving time in Japan for bank robbery.

Back in France he climbed his way into the business elite - working at Mobil-Oil and Rhone-Poulenc - before being taken on at Elf in 1989 by its newly-appointed president Loik Le Floch-Prigent, later to be his principal co-accused.

With the title of general affairs manager, Sirven ran a multi-billion dollar secret account from Geneva which was used by Elf - as well as other state companies and allegedly the French government - to buy influence around the world.

Sirven, Le Floch-Prigent and Elf's so-called "Mr Africa" Andre Tarallo were convicted for creaming off money from the fund for their personal benefit.

Sirven was found to have received jewellery and property worth tens of millions of euros.

He and Le Floch-Prigent admitted their guilt, but their lawyers said it was Elf's culture of graft and easy money that led them astray.

Sirven said that it had been a long-established practice for funds to be channelled to French political parties, telling the court at one point: "It was a secret to no one that Elf had been used for things like this since forever. I myself took personal charge of things of this nature."

But he refused to name names.

In October's appeal hearing the state argued for a tougher sentence for Sirven, claiming that his original jail term and fine were insufficient.

Shortly after his release last May, Sirven married 44 year-old Vilma Medina, his companion during his years on the run in the Philippines.

Elf was privatised in 1994 and was a civil plaintiff in both Sirven's trials.

Le Floch-Prigent and Tarallo have both been released from jail for health reasons.


Subject: French News

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