Controversial French former spy chief found dead in Paris

The retired director of a now-defunct French intelligence agency, who was involved in several politically charged court cases in recent years, has been found dead in his Paris apartment. From 1992 to 2004, Yves Bertrand, headed the Direction Centrale des Renseignements Généraux (known widely as RG), the domestic intelligence service of the French police. Bertrand, who once described himself as “a minesweeper for the republic”, was a reclusive figure that zealously guarded his privacy and avoided any contact with the French media. In 2007, however, he was thrust into the public spotlight after he was involved in the so-called Clearstream Affair. The controversy centered on a list of names of European government officials who had allegedly received bribes in return for authorizing weapons deals with Taiwan. French investigators searched Bertrand’s Paris apartment and confiscated nearly two dozen volumes of his personal notebooks, in hopes of uncovering inside information linking the Clearstream affair with leading French politicians, including conservative frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2008, numerous excerpts from Bertrand’s confiscated diaries found their way into the French press. They included embarrassing revelations about the lives of many French public figures, including politicians. Read more of this post

France’s former spy chief refuses to testify in Angolagate trial

Yves Bertrand

Yves Bertrand

France’s former spy chief has refused to testify as a defense witness in the infamous Angolagate trial, which probes illegal arms shipments from France to Angola in the early 1990s. The arms scandal, which was uncovered in 1995 by the French authorities, involved unauthorized shipments of over $600 million-worth of weapons to the MPLA-dominated government in post-civil-war Angola. Forty-two people are implicated in the case, some of whom are facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion, as well as bribery of French government officials responsible for overseeing commercial shipments to Angola. The 42 include Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French President Francois Mitterrand, former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, and two businessmen, Pierre Falcone, from France, and Israeli-Russian tycoon Arkady Gaydamak. Interestingly, Falcone and Gaydamak stated during the trial that they planned the illegal weapons shipments to Angola with the secret approval of the French government, which was hoping to gain access to Angolan oil in return for the weapons handout. Read more of this post

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