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France

French police raid Dieudonné premises in suspected fraud probe

media Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, Paris December 2013. AFP PHOTO/JOEL SAGET

French police raided premises belonging to controversial performer Dieudonné M'bala M'bala on Tuesday as part of a probe into suspected fraud.

The raids were the latest in a series of operations concerning Dieudonné, who has been widely accused of promoting anti-Semitism and already has convictions for hate speech.

Authorities are currently attempting to force Dieudonne to pay more than 65,000 euros in outstanding fines, related to his convictions.

They suspect that the 47-year-old was planning fraudulently to declare himself bankrupt

They are also investigating suspected money-laundering and the misuse of corporate assets.

Investigators believe Dieudonné, whose father is from Cameroon, has illicitly moved 400,000 euros to the African country since 2009.

The purchase of one of Dieudonné's properties by a production company controlled by his partner, Noemie Montagne is also the subject of an enquiry.

The property had been put up for auction by the state after being seized in lieu of an outstanding tax bill of 900,000 euros.

Dieudonné was in the headlines last month when the government, which brands him a "pedlar of hate", succeeded in preventing him from starting a nationwide tour of a new show, "The Wall", because of its perceived anti-Semitic content.

He also invented the quenelle, a trademark stiff-armed gesture which looks like an inverted Nazi salute but he says is simply a gesture of defiance towards the French establishment.

However some fans of Dieudonné have been photographed, or photographed themselves, doing the quenelle at sites including Auschwitz, synagogues and outside a Jewish school in Toulouse where a rabbi and three children were shot dead by Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah in 2012.

Police said on Tuesday that they had arrested a man suspected of distributing images of another person doing the quenelle outside the Toulouse school and in front of the flat where Merah was shot dead by police after a siege.

The man, who is known locally as "Joe the Crow", is in custody and has had his computer seized as police attempt to identify the person who features on the provocative photographs.

Police said it had taken them several weeks to track down "Joe the Crow," and that they had run up against legal obstacles in trying to get information about who had uploaded the pictures.

Meanwhile bailiffs who visited Dieudonné's home last week to demand payment of the outstanding fines have claimed they were assaulted and shot at with rubber bullets.

Dieudonné was questioned by police over the alleged incident but subsequently released without charge pending further investigation. He has filed a complaint over what he sees as an illegal entry into his property.

Separately from the fraud investigation, a Paris prosecutor has opened a probe into Dieudonné's appeal through his website and other Internet platforms for donations to help him pay his fines.

 

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