A newspaper's fiction over the Sarkozy-Gaddafi Libyan funding story

On Sunday July 14th 2019 the director of the 'Journal du Dimanche', Hervé Gattegno, wrote an article in that newspaper's columns claiming that the affair involving Libyan funding of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign was a plot orchestrated by the businessman and intermediary Ziad Takieddine. And that Mediapart had been used to relay the story to the public. Among the many things missing from the JDD article is the fact that it was published several days after the former president – who is under formal judicial investigation over three aspects of the Libyan affair – had opportunely withdrawn legal action for defamation against Mediapart over the reporting of Mr Takieddine's witness statements.

Hervé Gattegno's main story is based on the account of someone who was briefly employed by Ziad Takieddine, an account which claims the middleman was the source behind Mediapart obtaining and then publishing in 2012 a Libyan memo which the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper continues to say is a forgery.

We never speak about our sources but we can say who are not our sources. At no time did Takieddine, either directly or indirectly, have anything to do with our Libyan memo. That was obtained by Mediapart from the best sources abroad nearly a year after our first investigation into the affair in July 2011 which was headlined: 'Sarkozy-Guéant: le grand soupçon libyen' ('Sarkozy-Guéant: the great Libyan suspicion', referring to the then-president and his chief of staff and later interior minister Claude Guéant.

Because he was mentioned in the memo, Ziad Takieddine was contacted by Mediapart on the eve of the publication of the story in 2012 to give him the right to respond to it. The same thing was done, incidentally, with Nicolas Sarkozy and with Brice Hortefeux, a close political ally of the president who was mentioned in the story. It is worth pointing out that Ziad Takieddine later attacked this memo when questioned by investigating judges, which would have been amusing if he had fabricated it …

The account to which Hervé Gattegno gives credit is based on nothing other than fiction and is, moreover, not supported by any concrete information; instead, we are treated to a scenario worthy of a bad film – a witness who surprises Takieddine in the process of burning documents and so on.

JDD's accusations seem to disregard the fact that on three occasions the judicial system has dismissed Nicolas Sarkozy's claims that this memo is a forgery. According to the investigating judges who have looked into this document for more than three years, according to the investigatory chamber of the court of appeal in Paris, which confirmed the verdict of the investigating judges, and according to France's highest court the Cour de Cassation, which upheld all of the legal proceedings, this memo is neither a material forgery nor an intellectual falsehood.

Mr Gattegno, who has been trying to prove the opposite for many years, first in the columns of Vanity Fair in France (having already used one false witness, Jomode Eli Getty Domy), is trying to win in his newspaper columns the battle that Nicolas Sarkozy has lost definitively in the courts.

The publication date of this latest attempt by Hervé Gattegno – who is close to one of those involved in the affair, the intermediary Alexandre Djouhri – is important. The JDD article was printed several days after the announcement that Nicolas Sarkozy had withdrawn legal action for defamation against Mediapart and Ziad Takieddine, something which indicates the former president's nervousness over the affair. The JDD thus seems to be conducting a media response to compensate for Mr Sarkozy's latest judicial travails. No one should be fooled by it.

In the main case itself, which is still being investigated by judges in Paris, there is however one concrete fact: Nicolas Sarkozy is refusing to respond to any of the judge's questions, as Libération has reported. That is also the case with Claude Guéant, his former right-hand man. Both are under formal investigation in different aspects of the case, in particular for “corruption”.

One should also add that, in a clever editorial three-card trick, JDD omits all those established facts which complete the puzzle of this investigation, to the point where they constitute the serious and corroborating evidence taken into consideration by the case's investigating judges. These include the safe rented by Claude Guéant during the 2007 presidential campaign, the handwritten notes of a former Libyan dignitary who later drowned in the River Danube in Vienna, the cash used in the 2007 Sarkozy election campaign, the cash found on diplomat Boris Boillon, Guéant's Paris apartment and his links with the middleman Alexandre Djouhri, the unexplained trips made by key Sarkozy ally Brice Hortefeux to Libya, the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, was also the lawyer for former Libyan security chief Abdullah Senussi, who was the target of the anti-terrorist authorities in France, the trade-offs for the alleged corruption in the funding affair, of which the official visit made by Muammar Gaddafi to France after the 2007 presidential election was the best example, and so on.

Meanwhile Nicolas Sarkozy's reaction on the morning of Sunday July 14th to the JDD article was this simple cry of victory: “The truth at last!”. No comment.

Of course, no one knows which direction the judicial system will take in the Libyan case, which was opened after Mediapart's initial revelations in the summer of 2011 and which became a full judge-led investigation in 2013. The legal outcome is for the justice system to determine, and it alone. For its part, Mediapart is simply doing its job and will continue to do so: to inform within the rules of the profession – checking and cross-referencing, using a variety of sources, using many different documents, maintaining a meticulous and patient approach to the investigation, keeping one's distance from all interested parties and respecting opposing points of view.

The JDD and its director have the right not to enjoy our investigations and the independence that they demonstrate. But to claim that our journal could have taken part in a murky operation to destabilise politics is as crazy as it is curious.

Postscript
: Desperate to defend Nicolas Sarkozy's cause in the Libyan affair, JDD's director Hervé Gattegno sued Mediapart for defamation over an article about the media networks used by the former president's clan, to which Gattegno gave a long response in our columns. He won the case at first instance, and we have now appealed so there is as yet no definitive verdict.

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English version by Michael Streeter - the French version can be found here.

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