Thursday, 12 July 2012


A few weeks ago, my lover phoned me from Sephora, an international make up supermarket on the Champs Elysees. Was there something I would like? I mentioned mascara. Black and waterproof, I said and mentioned a low priced British brand. The dazzling array of mascaras, some that make your eyelashes curl out like spider’s legs, others that make your eyelids droop with the sheer weight of their lash thickening, top price for Dior at 39€, defeated him: he arrived shortly after, bearing lipstick of his choice—one that does not come off all over your beau when he kisses you. That is made by L’Oreal.
I’m sorry if you were thinking of getting some tips about the best water-proof mascara or indelible lipsticks to wear in this summer’s incessant rain, but this blog is not really about mascara. It’s about L’Oreal, and, more to the point, about ex-President Sarkozy and his mix-up in a recent episode of “Dallas sur Seine.” This nickname for Neuilly sur Seine, where Sarko has been Mayor since he was 27 years old, refers to the endless political infighting that goes on there. Latterly it has included the infighting of the Bettencourt clan, majority shareholders in L’Oreal, one of the worlds biggest cosmetics companies.
Liliane Bettencourt’s father Eugène Schueller founded L’Oreal. He also funded fascist groups and supported the Nazis. Liliane married French politician, André Bettencourt, who was a minister in three French governments in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, including one of Général De Gaulle. Liliane  is one of the world’s richest woman with a fortune of 23bn USD, that’s 31% of the company her father founded. A French observer informs me, ”Political power has been the mascara of this family who hide their love of money behind glamour.”
The latest and long running episode of Dallas sur Seine, containing elements of the best soaps --a mix of political power with money-lust and feuding--refers to the Court battle to gain control of  Liliane Bettencourt’s fortune. The legal action by Liliane’s daughter resulted, in October 2011, in 89 year old Liliane being deprived of control over her own fortune on grounds of incompetence. A long running scandal with press reports based on her butler’s recorded evidence of conversations with her guests revealed that La Bettencourt had been handing out wads of cash to certain politicians to help them in their election campaign. Sarkozy was one of her visitors for elegant afternoon tea at her Neuilly sur Seine house, who allegedly went away with a fat envelope each time. 
The cash was supposedly for his 2007 election campaign. This is why,  last week (July 3rd) as I travelled to London on the Eurostar, the Paris police were raiding Sarkozy’s two homes (his own flat and the house of his wife) and his law company’s offices, in search of incriminating evidence in the case against him. The likelihood of the police finding any evidence at these locations of the alleged crime—illegally taking money for his 2007 election campaign--is slight. But the raid underlined the fact that the ex-President is no longer protected from the long arm of criminal law. How the mighty do fall! Humiliation and worse, haunt the horizon.
As there are strict laws about how election campaign funds are raised, the matter of the envelopes is very serious. Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy’s predecessor at the Elysée, is currently serving a suspended sentence for his own chicanery: misuse of public funds to pay 19  “staff” who were officially working for the Mairie, while he was Mayor of Paris, but unofficially working for Chirac’s campaign to be elected President in 1995.
Related to Chirac’s Presidential ambitions, another nightmare may descend on Sarkozy, More sinister and far more threatening to Sarko’s future liberty, that one is named “Karachi”. It involves a web of conspiracy in which Chirac is also involved and which led to the deaths of eleven French engineers in a bombing in Pakistan in 2002 at the time of Chirac’s re-election to the Presidency. The conspiracy, based on an arms deal to Pakistan, occurred while Sarkozy was Minister for Budget and treasurer of the then Prime Minister (1993-1995) Eduard Balladur’s campaign for the 1995 Presidential election.
An illegal retro-commission was to be paid back by the arms dealer into Balladur’s campaign fund. Chirac won the 1995 election, but as Balladur had reneged on a promise not to stand against him, refused to go on paying the commission. This resulted, after discussions with the arms dealer and his dubious allies (Pakistani military men close to Islamist groups which they finance), in the 2002 revenge bombing of a bus in Pakistan that took eleven French lives.
If the Eurozone crisis ever allows enough room for this in the headlines, the convoluted history of the “Karachi” conspiracy will play to packed houses while Dallas sur Seine and the wads of cash from the L’Oreal heiress that flowed into Sarko’s 2007 campaign will fade into insignificance. The ‘Karachi’ mascara, mixed with French blood, is indelible.

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