March 18, 2003


The most far-reaching financial scandal in French history reached court yesterday after eight years of investigation, the death and flight of several witnesses, and a concerted government effort to ensure the less savoury elements of France's Africa policy are not exposed to public scrutiny.

For the next four-and-a-half months, the former top brass of Elf, the oil giant, will have to explain what happened to hundreds of millions of pounds diverted from company accounts for bribes and personal enrichment.

No major government figures have been implicated, but Elf's history as a cover for all manner of Franco-African shenanigans is the backdrop for the trial.

President Chirac is reported to be deeply concerned that France is not embarrassed as it tries to establish itself as an alternative to America's global leadership.

Heh. Still more reason -- and opportunity -- for us to follow Nick Denton's advice and work to split off France's African colonies and move them in a more democratic direction.

(Via Samizdata, which wonders if this trial will reveal an Iraq connection. Not if Chirac can help it. . . .)

UPDATE: Read this piece on the French corruption scandals, too. Also, this piece by David Ignatius from Legal Affairs last summer is worth reading.

Perhaps this issue will get more attention in American and British media now. . . .