Mitterrand's son held in African money-laundering inquiry

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The Independent Online

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French president, has been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged money-laundering and arms-trafficking in Africa.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French president, has been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged money-laundering and arms-trafficking in Africa.

M. Mitterrand, 58, who has been investigated since 2000 over illegal arms sales to Angola, faces new claims that he set up a bogus fish-processing factory in Mauritania.

The former journalist, who became an African adviser and informal envoy for his father, the Socialist president, François Mitterrand, was released by police yesterday without being charged. He had been held overnight for questioning.

M. Mitterrand has denied the allegations and accused Judge Philippe Courroye of being part of a campaign to sully the memory of his late father. He wrote that Judge Philippe Courroye was "sweating with hatred before he even opened his mouth" when he questioned him in December 2000 on his alleged part in a conspiracy to break an embargo on arms sales to Angola.

While that continues, M. Mitterrand's bank accounts are frozen and he is officially penniless. Judge Courroye is said to be questioning the late president's son on how he came to make large payments - allegedly totalling €600,000 (£400,000) in cash - to a company called Iwik in Mauritania.

This company was created by M. Mitterrand in 1997 to build a fish-processing factory but evidence presented to the judge shows it remained inactive until after Jean-Christophe was arrested in December 2000.

Leaks to the French press from what is supposed to be a confidential investigation claim that the judge believes the "factory" was a means of laundering funds and making illegal cash transfers.

In March, Judge Courroye raided the apartment of M. Mitterrand, and his 80-year-old mother, the president's widow, Danièle Mitterrand, to search for incriminating documents.

M. Mitterrand insists that he created the factory as part of a personal initiative to boost the economy of one of the world's most destitute countries.

During his father's double term as President from 1981 to 1995, Jean-Christophe became a well-connected figure in Africa. As head of the president's special African unit at the Elysée palace, he made frequent trips to African leaders.

It is alleged that he became involved in illegal arms-trafficking to Angola in the 1990s with the French businessman, Pierre Falcone. Neither have been charged.

The new accusations arise from evidence given to Judge Courroye by Olivier Collonge, a former director general of the Mauritanian company, Iwik, who said he was given cash.

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