Tapie Freed!

Les Trois Quartiers
Les Trois Quartiers, near Madeleine.

Tour de France Tours Champs-Elysées, Quickly

Paris:- Saturday, 26. July 1997:- Bernard Tapie walked out of the Luynes 'Maison d'Arrêt' early yesterday morning, having absolved his eight-month sentence in the Olympic Marseille football-fix affair.

He climbed into a grey Mercedes, driven by Marc Fratani and rejoined his wife at a borrowed country house near Aix. In fact, the sentence commission let him go free two weeks early; Mr. Tape did not benefit from the traditional 14. July Presidential Amnesty.

Spokesmen said that he suffered from isolation while in jail, mostly due to not being held together with the general prison population. When he was transferred from Luynes to the Santé in Paris for additional court appearances, he was held in a high-security area, reserved for other businessmen-prisoners.

According to his lawyers, Mr. Tape was not allowed to see newspapers or television, nor permitted a radio. During the hour's exercise allowed every day, he had to do it alone.

Since he is still technically serving his term until 8. August, he is not allowed to leave the Provence-Alps-Côte-d'Azur region. After this date, he is free to go wherever he wants to.

In fact, Mr. Tapie is awaiting two other judgements to come. There is the appeal of the six-month jail-term for the Phocéa-Testut affair and the appeal of the 18-month term for the accounting fiddle with the football club's books. If his lawyers can get these sentences made concurrent, it is possible he will not do hard-time for them.

There is still an unresolved cloud on Mr. Tapie's horizon and it is in the person of the Paris judge, Eva Joly. She has been looking at the accounts of two of Mr. Tapie's Place de la Concorde financial units - from which she may produce a charge of illegal bankruptcy.

The place de la Concorde, on a normal summer's day in July 1997.

This particular judge is also looking at possibly a half-dozen other corruption cases involving very big businessmen, and reading about her exploits gives a somewhat instructive idea of the wide powers of a French [ prosecuting ] judge.

There are rules and there are limits - known generally as the 'straight and narrow.' If you are a 'big hat' and you stray from this path and Eva Joly finds out about it, she has a set of rules and limits at her disposal, which were designed by an industrial vacuum-cleaner company. She sweeps up everything as evidence, including the suspects.

This Week's Disaster

Late Tuesday night, fire broke out in the roof area of the Musée des Monuments Français, located in the northern wing of the Palais de Chaillot at Trocadéro.

The 211 firemen - 'sapeurs-pompiers' - called to the scene had a difficult job because the fire was between the roof and a false ceiling, and burning bits were falling, while the exterior of the roof was being weakened. It was also a delicate job, with the firemen trying to limit damage caused by saving the building - water from the hoses found its way to the basement location of the Musée du Cinéma.

Pumps to extract the water were brought in quickly and most of the cinema material was saved, as were most of the contents of the monuments museum, as they had already been given protection from the renovation which was taking place.

Amateur video aired on TV-news showed impressive amounts of smoke and some fire, and two firemen were reported injured.

Police investigators moved in on Wednesday, especially since explosions had been heard at the height of the blaze. The roof was being renovated, and it is believed some gas containers stored there exploded.

The fire service is very familiar with all of the important buildings in Paris; and pretty much knows how they are going to fight a fire before they arrive on the scene - which, in Tuesday's case, they did very quickly after the alarm. As with all museums, one priority it to use a minimum of water in order to limit damage.

The actual damage, although looking bad on TV, was less than feared by the museum's administration. No item was irreparably damaged. It is too soon to estimate the cost of the repairs, but it will be high.

Traffic in Paris

Since everybody has a preconceived idea of what this must be like, I don't normally mention it - being as it is sort of a fact of everyday life.

However, if you have rented a car and are expecting smooth cruises around town during this summer period when you expect the local cowboys are out somewhere on the range - forget it.

Summer is when Paris fixes its roads. 'Fixing roads' means closing them to traffic, which means... that the map you got from the rental company is not operative.

In normal times, it may take only one car or truck, in some one-lane street, to completely derange all west-Paris traffic patterns. Imagine then, what can happen if a part of the Périphérique is suddenly blocked. Or, if you are on the Périphérique looking for the exit for the autoroute to Rouen, and the exit is closed.

Experienced Parisian drivers may know where to look for the plentiful and yellow 'Déviation' - detour - signs, but you... may turn the wrong way before you see the first one.

I'm not wishing bad luck on anyone, because I have done this myself - and kow that the 'work-around' can involve a long unplanned detour.

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