New French business corruption scandal

THE LIST of top French businessmen accused of corruption lengthened this week as Jean- Louis Beffa, chief executive of Saint Gobain, principally known for glass-making, was indicted for payment of an illegal commission with probable political fall-out.

Mr Beffa was charged with 'traffic of influence' by Renaud Van Ruymbeke, one of France's best known examining magistrates and a specialist in corruption involving political parties. Mr Van Ruymbeke turned up at Saint Gobain's headquarters at La Defense, the modern business complex west of Paris, on Tuesday; five hours later, Mr Beffa was charged.

He was the latest of about 100 senior French businessmen charged with one or other irregularity. In July, Pierre Suard, the head of the Alcatel telecommunications company, was charged with fraud and embezzlement. Six weeks earlier, Didier Pineau-Valencienne, the chairman of Schneider, was detained in Brussels' Forest jail and charged with embezzlement.

Mr Beffa's troubles concerned a commission paid to obtain a public works contract in the city of Nantes. Specifically, Mr Van Ruymbeke was looking into a payment by Pont-a-Mousson, a Saint Gobain subsidiary, of 4.4m francs (pounds 500,000) to Rene Trager, a businessman in the Breton city of Rennes. Le Monde said this commission was believed to have been paid to the Republican Party, the main component of the centre- right Union for French Democracy (UDF). Mr Trager, in earlier investigations, gave evidence against Georgina Dufoix, a former Socialist social affairs minister.

Mr Van Ruymbeke, an examining magistrate from Rennes, first became famous for a series of investigations into illicit funding of the Socialist Party. The Socialists were defeated in parliamentary elections last year. Mr Van Ruymbeke's investigations concentrated on inflated bills paid to Socialist-run municipalities with the excess used to pay election campaign expenses. This earned Mr Ruymbeke an anti-Socialist reputation but for some months now his enquiries have led to suggestions that the Rebublican Party also received illicit funds.

Recent investigations by Mr Van Ruymbeke have already embarrassed Gerard Longuet, the UDF Industry Ministry who is also the Republican Party's president. According to French press reports, Mr Trager has told Mr Ruymbeke that the commission paid by the Saint Gobain subsidiary went to the Republican Party. It was not until early 1991 that the National Assembly passed a law laying down strict rules governing campaign expenses.

As Mr Beffa's juridical misfortunes surfaced, Le Monde published the results of a survey of 622 French business leaders in which 54 per cent acknowledged that they were aware that many companies broke the law. Fifty-six per cent said they would favour a 'clean hands' operation, such as that carried out in Italy, to cleanse the business world of illegal practices.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style