PARIS — French investigators have dropped criminal charges against former President Nicolas Sarkozy for allegedly soliciting illegal campaign funds from the country’s richest woman. The inquiry found insufficient evidence that Sarkozy had sought and accepted campaign money in 2007 from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt , 90, while she was in a frail mental state. Sarkozy won the 2007 presidential election . The unexpected decision on Monday, just two weeks after a court ruled the investigation could proceed, clears the way for Sarkozy, who had vehemently denied the accusations, to run for reelection in 2017. However, the charges — termed an abuse of weakness –were maintained against Eric Woerth, a former government minister who was Sarkozy’s treasurer in the 2007 campaign; Bettencourt’s former companion, the society photographer Francois-Marie Banier; her lawyer, Pascal Wilhelm; her financial advisor, Patrice de Maistre and six others. Their trial is expected to be held next year. The public prosecutor in Bordeaux, where the investigation is being conducted, had said the case against Sarkozy stood no chance of success, and threatened to appeal any decision to send the former president to trial, delaying the investigation against the other accused. The former president is still dogged by a number of other legal cases, including a scandal over millions of euros in public money paid in compensation to a controversial businessman and friend, Bernard Tapie. Sarkozy is also facing questions about the “Karachi Affair,” a complicated corruption case linked to arms sales and a bombing in Pakistan in 2002 that killed 11 French nationals. Before the May 2012 election campaign, Sarkozy had said that if he lost his bid for reelection, France would never hear of me again. He has maintained a reasonably low profile since his defeat by Socialist Francois Hollande , but he and his entourage have begun hinting of his return to the front line of French politics to save the country. Several members of the right-of-center opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, are said to be interested in running in 2017, but Sarkozy has emerged as the popular candidate to challenge Hollande.
France coach Deschamps has World Cup playoffs firmly in mind ahead of Australia friendly
October 7, 2013 | Comments (2) France has had enough of Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) and decided to do something about it. The country’s lawmakers signed a bill last Thursday that will prevent the online retail behemoth from combining free book deliveries with discounts of up to 5% — the ceiling on book discounts set by the French government in 1981. The bill was approved unanimously, and it was the outcome of an anti-Amazon sentiment that’s sweeping through the country. A couple of months ago in a speech to booksellers in Bordeaux, culture minister Aurelie Filippetti blasted the company for its disruptive policies. “Amazon, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets only to raise prices again, once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly,” she said. While her outburst was, more or less, understandable, I can’t help but wonder what’s worse: allowing a quasi-monopoly to emerge or supporting outdated businesses like traditional bookstores? More importantly, is protectionism the answer for not being competitive and creative enough? Regulate your way back to innovation France is fed up with Amazon not just because it considers the online retailer as the “destroyer of books,” but also because Amazon has been dodging taxes by exploiting loopholes in the European states’ tax regimes. It reports most of its European sales through a Luxembourg-based holding company, cashing in on this state’s comparably low corporate taxes for earnings outside its borders. The French government is pushing for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, to revamp tax rules for digital companies, ensuring profits they make on the continent are subject to taxation. However, that’s not all there is to it. The Wall Street Journal, citing French briefing documents ahead of an EU summit later this month, notes that France also wants the EU to regulate a small number of platforms for Internet and digital applications.
France’s FIFA ranking has slipped to a lowly 25th, so it needs to win Friday’s friendly against Australia and its last qualifier against Finland four days later to have a stronger chance of being among the seeded teams when the draw is made. Spain is level on points with second-place France but has home games against Belarus and Georgia. “Yes, there is something at stake. They’re not the two most exciting games, but they’re internationals. I don’t want people easing up and lacking concentration because ‘It’s only Australia, it’s Finland,'” Deschamps said Monday. “Both are important, because we can earn some points, and given what awaits us in November that can help us be among the seeded teams.” France’s form has been patchy throughout qualifying, with the highlight being an excellent second-half performance in the 1-1 draw away to Spain, and the lows being a tepid 0-0 draw away to Georgia and a terrible first-half performance against Belarus last month. France trailed 1-0 at halftime and 2-1 before rallying with late goals to win 4-2 and put some gloss on an otherwise poor showing. “Unfortunately we alternate the good and the bad,” Deschamps said. “There was a fear of failure. Belarus played really well in the first half – I had never seen them play that well – but we responded well in the second half.” A recurring problem for Deschamps has been the lack of goals from forwards, and with one qualifier remaining it is still unclear who is France’s first choice up front. Karim Benzema has not scored in 15 internationals and was dropped against Belarus, with Olivier Giroud taking his place but not scoring, either. It is unlikely that they will play together, as that has not worked on the occasions Deschamps has paired them alongside each other. “The hierarchy can evolve,” Deschamps said. “One of them will start on Friday.