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Monday, 29 June 2009

French court blocks corruption book

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A French court has blocked the publication of a book by a former investigating magistrate who exposed corruption at the Elf oil company.

The court said that Eva Joly's book, which was due out on Thursday, might prejudice the ongoing trial of former Elf executives.

The book will now be published only after the closing arguments for the defence in the trial, scheduled for 7 July.

Correspondents say this is the first time a book by a judge has been blocked by the French courts.

Ms Joly said she would appeal against the decision, denouncing it as "censorship".

"Ms Joly has served our country with courage and should be proposed for the Legion of Honour," said Socialist MP Arnaud Montebourg.

Network of graft

The book - titled Is this the world we want to live in?, argues that France is institutionally corrupt.

Ms Joly, 57, led the investigation against Elf from its inception in 1994, focusing initially on Elf's bail-out of the Bidermann textile group and Bidermann's apparent payment of a secret commission to Elf director Loik le Floch-Prigent's wife.

But the inquiry soon widened as investigators found evidence of a network of graft stretching to Spain, Germany and Africa.

The Norwegian-born magistrate is considered to be at the vanguard of a new generation of lawyers bent on exposing the corrupt practices that were once part and parcel of the French political system.

Correspondents say she has made some powerful enemies during the trial.

Le Floch-Prigent and two other senior officials, Alfred Sirven and Andre Tarallo, could face jail of up to eight years if convicted for a range of financial machinations which enriched African leaders and some of the defendants.

Le Floch-Prigent and Sirven have been serving prison sentences since 2001 for organising a company slush fund.

But former foreign minister Roland Dumas was cleared on appeal in January of receiving Elf-funded gifts from his former mistress.

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