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French ‘paparazzi queen’ charged in Sarkozy probe

A major figure in France's paparazzi world has been charged with witness tampering in a case involving former president Nicolas Sarkozy, her lawyer told AFP Saturday.

French 'paparazzi queen' charged in Sarkozy probe
Mimi Marchand, known widely as "Mimi", works closely with a host of rich and powerful figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment, including President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. Photo: Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

Mimi Marchand, who runs the BestImage agency, had also been charged with criminal association, said lawyer Caroline Toby. “She firmly denies the charges against her,” she added.

Marchand was arrested on Thursday along with several other suspects on the orders of magistrates investigating alleged corruption by Sarkozy, who has been accused of taking money from former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Sarkozy denies the charges.

READ ALSO: Ex French president Sarkozy, 66, denies claims he ‘skipped the queue’ to get his Covid vaccine

Francois de Labarre, a journalist from Paris Match who was also arrested Thursday, was released without charge later the same day.

Marchand and de Labarre were instrumental in organising an interview in November with one of the main witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine, in which he withdrew his allegations against the former head of state.

Afterwards, speaking to French investigators, Takieddine changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying his words had been “deformed”.

Marchand’s lawyer Toby insisted Saturday that her client had “acted in her capacity as a journalist who had this exclusive interview with Takieddine.

“All she did was organise the photos and the interview, within the parameters of her job,” she added.

Marchand, known widely as “Mimi”, works closely with a host of rich and powerful figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment, including President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.

READ ALSO: Campaign finance trial opens for French ex-president Sarkozy

The investigative website Mediapart, which first reported the detention of Marchand and de Laberre, said they were suspected of “underground negotiations with Mr Takieddine” to convince him to withdraw his allegations against Sarkozy.

Before retracting his claims in the Paris Match interview, Takieddine had always alleged that he delivered suitcases stuffed with five million euros ($6 million) in cash from Tripoli to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.

Marchand’s arrest is the latest twist in years of extraordinary claims and investigations against pugnacious right-winger Sarkozy, who served one term as president, from 2007-2012.

In March, Sarkozy was found guilty of influence-peddling and handed a three-year prison sentence for attempting to influence a judge to obtain information in a separate case.

Most of the sentence was suspended and he is appealing, meaning he is unlikely to go to jail, but he faces other charges including in the cash-from-Libya case.

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ELECTIONS

Explained: The party manifestos for France’s snap elections

As the formal campaign period begins in France's snap legislative elections, here's a look at the manifestos of the main parties and what they mean for foreigners living here.

Explained: The party manifestos for France's snap elections

Monday marks the start of the official campaign period for France’s snap legislative elections – a brief two-week campaign before the first round of voting on Sunday, June 30th followed by round two a week later on July 7th. 

Here’s a look at the manifestos of the main parties, with a particular emphasis on any immigration policies that would affect the lives of foreigners in France, or those planning to move here some day.

Renaissance

First up is Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party Renaissance – its platform was unveiled by Macron himself in a televised press conference, with a more detailed programme unveiled later by prime minister Gabriel Attal.

The party is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the programme, since its main policy goals are already known and it is limited by financial and other factors from announcing any especially bold new goals. The result was that Macron in his launch speech was left to talk about policies that had already been announced or vague goals such as holding a ‘national debate’ on France’s secularism policy.

Macron also framed the election as a ‘battle against extremism’ saying: “I hope that when the time comes, men and women of goodwill who will have been able to say no to the extremes will come together… to build a shared, sincere project that is useful to the country.” 

Programme – Much of the programme will be familiar since Macron was after all re-elected in 2022 and set out his five-year plan at the time. On the economy and the environment, the president said that his party would continue to grow foreign investment in France, cut unemployment and work towards the ‘green reindustrialisation’ of the country – a Macron pet project to create jobs and industry in France by embracing new green technologies such as car batteries.

He also re-committed to France’s domestic nuclear energy programme, and to France’s strong support for Ukraine.

Among the new parts were a ‘great national debate’ on the tricky subject of French state secularism (laïcité) and limits to access to screens for children – as recommended by a commission of experts.

Attal also unveiled some new measures on the key issue of the cost-of-living, with promises to triple the ‘Macron bonus’ paid to some employees from €3,000 a year to €10,000, index-linking pensions to inflation, reducing utility bills by 15 percent next winter and help for parents in buying school supplies.

He also proposes axing the notaire fee (in reality a kind of tax on home purchases) for any property purchased for under €250,000 and setting up an extra renovation fund to give grants to property-owners to repairs and energy works.

Some ongoing Macronist legislation such as changing the law on assisted dying has been interrupted on its journey through parliament, but would likely restart if the party wins a majority.

The party’s programme makes no specific suggestions for changes to the immigration system, but it did just introduce a new immigration law in January that – among other things – introduces a language test requirement for certain types of residency cards and raises the language level required for French citizenship through naturalisation.

Front Populaire

France’s largest leftist political parties have struck an election pact not to stand candidates against each other – in order to avoid dividing the leftist vote.

This means that the hard-left La France Insoumise will field 229 candidates, the centre-left Parti Socialiste will field 175, the Green EELV 92 and the Communists 50. It also means that the parties are presenting a single, joint manifesto under the banner of Nouveau Front Populaire – which has been the subject of much argument and some awkward compromises.

Programme – much of the programme is concerned with cancelling recent Macronist laws. Among the laws it says it will cancel are the new immigration bill – the one that introduces French language tests for certain types of residency card and raises the language level required for French citizenship.

The manifesto also proposes introducing a 10-year carte de séjour residency card ‘as the standard card’ – at present the standard model is for one-year cards initially and then move on to five-year and then 10-year cards, although there are significant variations based on your personal status (eg working, student, retired or family member).

Also set for the chop are Macron’s changes to unemployment benefits plus a cancellation of the price rises in electricity and gas and the reintroduction of the ‘wealth tax’ scrapped by Macron in 2018. Meanwhile the pension age would be dropped down to 60 (cancelling Macron’s law raising it from 62 to 64 and dropping it another two years).

The party would also raise the Smic (minimum wage) to €1,600 a month.

The environment forms a key part of the manifesto with a range of green incentives plus tax and financing rules that would clamp down on fossil fuels.

On foreign policy there are some delicately worded compromises since views on Ukraine and Gaza had previously split the leftist alliance. The group promises to “unfailingly defend the sovereignty and freedom of the Ukrainian people” including by delivering weapons and writing off debt. On Gaza, the party would recognise the Palestinian state and embargo arms supplies to Israel.

Policy towards the EU – a topic that divides the left – is left to one side.

Rassemblement National

The far-right Rassemblement National party will be joined by at least some candidates from the right-wing Les Republicains party, although the internal party divide over that pact will see some LR candidates independently. 

Programme – the party makes immigration one of its key concerns, with a commitment to “drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration and deport foreign criminals” listed as a priority.

The programme opposes both non-economic migration and family reunification – no detail is given on changes to the visa or residency card system in this area, but it seems likely that anyone wanting to move for non-work related reasons (eg retirees) would face restrictions. Likewise spouse visas would be affected by any changes to family reunification rules.

Non-French citizens would only be able to access social benefits such as housing benefits or caring allowances after working in France for five years and there would also be a ‘French first’ preference for access to employment and social housing.

Residency permits would be withdrawn for any non-French citizens who have been unemployed for more than one year.

Asylum claims would exclusively be processed outside France.

When it comes to French citizenship, the party wants to abolish the droit du sol, which gives the right to French citizenship to children born in France to foreign parents and limit access to citizenship for adults “on the basis of merit and assimilation” – it’s not clear how this would differ from the current system where candidates must already prove that they speak French and understand French culture and politics.

The party also has a strong line on law and order – doubling the number of magistrates, increasing fines for certain offences, adding those convicted of street harassment to the sex offenders’ register and creating a “presumption of legitimate defence” for police officers who kill or injure members of the public.

This article is part of a series on election platforms in France, we will look at each party’s economic platform in a separate piece. You can follow all the latest election news in our election section HERE, and you can also sign up here to receive our bi-weekly election breakdown during the campaign period

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