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Corruption: Judge to investigate the Dassault campaign in Corbeil-Essones

Translated Sunday 31 March 2013, by Kristina Wischenkamper

Paris Prosecutor opens a criminal investigation into vote buying, corruption, money laundering and misuse of corporate assets in the Corbeil (Essonne) 2008—2010 municipal election campaigns, won by Senator Serge Dassault and his right arm Jean-Pierre Bechter, both members of the UMP.

Suspected illegal electoral practices were the subject of a preliminary investigation conducted since 2010 by the interregional specialized jurisdiction (juridictions inter-régionales spécialisées [JIRS]) in Paris, following a report by the anti-fraud agency Tracfin. In addition, an investigation into telephone call harassment was launched after complaints from Dassault’s children, and a preliminary investigation for extortion by organized gangs is also underway.

Poisonous climate

The Prosecutor’s decision comes after Bruno Piriou asked in a statement issued on 27 February "that justice be done in Corbeil." The Communist Councillor and opponent of Serge Dassault and Jean-Pierre Brechter during the last elections, went on to deplore "the staggering sums of money involved in ensuring their re-election" and "the poisonous atmosphere leading up to the bloody revenge attacks of the last few days. "

A reminder of the facts:

  • June 2009: Mayor of the municipality from 1995 to 2009, industrialist Serge Dassault finds himself forced to pass the reins of this ex-communist bastion to his right-arm man Jean-Pierre Bechter following the invalidation by the State Council of the municipal 2008 elections, since "the donation of significant amounts of money by the outgoing mayor to the inhabitants of the town", was "likely to impair the validity of the vote".
  • October 2009: the election of his successor Jean-Pierre Brechter is invaidated.
  • December 2012: Jean-Pierre Brechter is elected after the third election in three years.
  • December 2012: le Canard Enchaîné reports that 1.7 million euros in cash came through Lebanon, to arrive — a few weeks before the 2010 municipal election — in the hands of intermediaries who redistributed the cash to activists and voters. The newspaper also mentions videos of neighborhood youths claiming they had not received their due, and the voice of Serge Dassault evoking a transaction with an intermediary.
  • in February 2013, the allegations, brushed aside by the Dassault camp, return to the headlines following two revenge attacks in fewer than three weeks in Corbeil, in which two young men were the target of gunfire . One of the victims, Rachid Toumi, in an interview with Le Parisien says that these revenge attacks were the result of an alleged vote-buying system introduced by Senator Serge Dassault and the current mayor of the commune Jean-Pierre Bechter. "Corbeil has become a mafiosa system. Dassault’s money has corrupted everything," he explains in a video, his face hidden.

Good news

"We need justice to be done so that republican values can be put to work again in this town. Corruption is rampant here" according to Bruno Piriou who welcomed the opening of the judicial enquiry on Friday as "good news".

Socialist MP Carlos da Silva, former deputy to Manuel Valls, has meanwhile called upon Dassault and Bechter to "immediately assume the consequences" of the judicial inquiry "so as not to further damage Corbeil."

"I was elected with a lead of 800. I do not see how we could have bought 800 votes," Jean-Pierre Bechter told AFP.

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