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Leading article: A case to answer

A magistrate in France has broken what had seemed an unwritten law of the land: that corruption, however conspicuous and heinous, is pursued, if at all, only after the highly-placed perpetrator has left office. She has opened an investigation into the presidents of three African countries who allegedly bought property in France from diverted public funds. The three leaders – of Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea – deny doing anything wrong.

Opening an investigation, of course, is no guarantee that any case will proceed. French corruption cases tend to drag on. Even when they do finish, the paltry results hardly reflect all the effort. Just to start the investigation, however, could be a useful warning. France is not alone in turning a blind eye to foreign corruption, even when its tentacles extend to its soil. Full marks to Transparency International for triggering the investigation, and to the magistrate who has defied the Paris prosecutors' office to pursue it.