French “trial of the century” continues with ex-spy’s testimony

Philippe Rondot

Philippe Rondot

A complex court case in France, which the nation’s media have dubbed “trial of the century”, continued this week with the testimony of one of France’s most distinguished intelligence agents. Retired General Philippe Rondot, who worked for France’s domestic (DST) and foreign intelligence (DGSE), and advised several French leaders, gained international fame in 1994, when he managed to arrest Venezuelan-born operative Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal. General Rondot was called earlier this week to testify whether France’s former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, helped forge a series of documents showing that France’s current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, had laundered millions of dollars in defense contract bribes through secret accounts in Luxembourg’s Clearstream bank. Mr. de Villepin will face up to five years in prison if found guilty of the forgery. Mr. Rondot raised the stakes by contradicting almost the entire testimony that Mr. de Villepin gave under oath last week. Mr. Rondot said he received direct instructions from Mr. de Villepin to begin an intelligence investigation based on the documents, and was further asked not to disclose the investigation to his superiors at France’s Ministry of Defense. He also said that the documents, which he quickly realized were fake, were presented to him as genuine. At the center of the trial is the adversary relationship between Mr. de Villepin, who was former French President Jacques Chirac’s preferred successor, and Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Sarkozy accuses Mr. de Villepin of ordering an intelligence investigation into his financial dealings in order to ruin his reputation and score a political victory. The trial’s “holy grail” consists of an unknown number of mysterious “spiral-bound notebooks”, in which another famous French spy, Yves Bertrand, director from 1992 to 2004 of France’s Central Directorate of General Intelligence (RD), is said to have catalogued Mr. de Villepin’s activities, along with other suspicious activities involving France’s corrupt political elite. The trial continues.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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