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France

French police charged with framing colleagues, interior minister under fire

media Yannick Blanc, who was squeezed out of his job over false accusations AFP/Jean Ayissi

French police charged with investigating wrongdoing by their colleagues have been accused of bending the law themselves – charged with framing colleagues who were judged too close to the opposition Socialists.

Left-wing MPs were gunning for Interior Minister Claude Guéant on Wednesday and top Paris police official Michel Gaudin was questioned over the affair.

It has seen the Inspection générale des services (IGS), which investigates alleged criminality within the force by police officers, accused of faking interview transcripts, bugging telephones and framing colleagues.

In the book Sarko m’a tuer, Yannick Blanc traced his troubles back to a 2006 interview with Le Monde in which he predicted that a circular on immigration would lead to several thousand immigrants being given papers.

The claim apparently enraged Sarkozy, who was preparing his presidency bid and hoping to look tough on immigration and crime.

In the run-up to the election, dozens of politicians asked for favourable treatment for their nannies, gardeners and so on, he told authors Fabrice Lhomme and Gérard Davet.

Although he was never charged in the false papers case, Blanc was squeezed out of his job, ending up working with a Socialist politician in the Ile de France regional council.

In the five months that followed Blanc’s interview, 6,624 people were allowed the right to stay in France.

And politics has reared its head, with accusations that some of the officers originally accused were persecuted for their political affiliations and that one was targeted because he had crossed President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Four magistrates are conducting no less than six inquiries into IGS members, according to Le Monde newspaper.

French politics no stranger to scandals

In the latest revelations, Thursday, police commander Jean-Pierre Delcher said that his signature was forged on an inaccurate transcript of an interview while he was seriously ill, claming that the forgers believed he would die before the matter came to light.

Another police officer, Isabelle Sablayrolles, claims that her signature was forged on the transcript of the testimony of a witness called as an expert on immigrants’ identity cards, who actually managed European Union funding to the Rhône-Alps region and has since said that he testified as a favour to a friend of Gaudin.

The case dates back to 2007, when Sarkozy was preparing to stand for president. At the time he was interior minister, in charge of the police and security policy.

Four officers in a unit responsible for immigration were accused of a traffic in residency papers.

Spate of high-profile trials in France

Among them was the unit’s boss, Yannick Blanc, who had been in charge of the office of Jean-Pierre Chévènement when he was interior minister under Socialist president François Mitterrand.

Although he was detained for questioning for 48 hours, Blanc was never charged. But four other officers under his command were, including Christian Massard who had previously been responsible for the security of prominent Socialist MP Daniel Vaillant.

The case came to court in January 2011 and all four were declared innocent.

Now the inquiry itself has come under the judicial spotlight for alleged faking of evidence and forgery.

And Socialist MPs have claimed that Guéant, who ran Sarkozy’s office at the interior ministry at the time, may have been behind the false accusations.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

Vaillant told Thursday's Le Monde that he appeared to have been bugged as part of the attempt to frame Massard, adding, he had yet to be convinced that Guéant knew nothing of what was going on.

“Claude Guéant is at the centre of system of power which has become a clan system in which you can see that he held all the strings,” said Socialist MP Bruno Le Roux.

Guéant on Thursday said that he would sue Le Roux for slander.

Blanc for his part said he believed that the IGS was “motivated by a political view of things”.

The French police have had a bad few months. At least four judicial inquires threaten the careers – and maybe the liberty – of top officers:

  • Snooping on the press – Prosecutor Philippe Courroye is accused of violating journalists’ right to protect their sources by ordering the police to examine the phone bills of reporters at the authoritative daily Le Monde to find out how they uncovered aspects of the Bettencourt affair, which has seen allegations of corruption against people close to the president - spy chief Bernard Squarcini is implicated.
  • Drug-trafficking and money-launderingMichel Neyret, the star of the police force of France’s third-largest city, Lyon, is arrested for allegedly paying informants with confiscated drugs, helping crooks resell them and consorting with gangsters.
  • Running a prostitution ring – two top cops in the fourth-largest city, Lille, are investigated for alleged connections to a prostitution ring operating out of the city’s Carlton Hotel – former IMF chief and Socialist Party member Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s name has been mentioned.

While Neyret’s colleagues leapt to his defence, arguing that he had to get close to his sources to get information, there is not much sympathy for the IGS during the latest scandal, according to Le Monde. But then it is charged with keeping the rest of the force on the straight and narrow – not an easy job by the look of things.
 

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