Tape! Who's Got the Tape?

photo: la rotonde, montparnasse

New version of old café that used to be in the
'bellybutton' of the world.

Lots of Copies But No Original

Paris:- Sunday, 1. October 2000:- On Sunday, 26. May 1996, three men got together at 9:30 to record 64 minutes of home-video. The chosen cameraman was the journalist Amaud Hamelin, the 'star' of the film was Jean-Claude Méry and the third man was Alain Belot, who was one of Mr. Méry's attorneys.

About ten days ago part of a transcript made from a copy of this video appeared in Le Monde. The video features only one person; Jean-Claude Méry, who is seen talking in some detail, about his life and times as the main political bagman for the RPR party.

He spent five months in prison beginning in September 1994, for his involvement in a case concerning public housing in Paris. By the time he was released, Judge Halphen had obtained additional financial information in Switzerland.

His two lawyers, Allain Guilloux and Alain Belot, who had 'gone private' after high-level careers with the tax department, set up the tape session. Apparently the tape was to be usedphoto: new metro chatelet, ste opportune as a 'guaranty,' before any additional meetings with Judge Halphen.

In the event, Méry apparently did not tell Judge Halphen anything before his death in June 1999. The only thing I know about this is that Méry did not die of old age.

The new Châtelet métro entrance at Sainte-Opportune in Les Halles.

But some time before this, Allain Guilloux's client Karl Lagerfeld switched to Alain Belot, who was engaged to obtain a diminution of a 300 million tax bill. After several visits to tax headquarters at Bercy, the tax demand was reduced to 50 million francs in August 1999.

Questioned by Judge Halphen in April 1999, Alain Belot said he gave the original of the Méry video to the Minister of Finance, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

But at the end of the year, the two video-producing attorneys had a falling out. Last week the judges searched the premises of the journalist Amaud Hamelin and found the copy of the video that had been returned to him by Allain Guilloux.

If this makes little sense it is understandable. Last weekend two investigating judges went out with search warrants and did not find the original of the video in a bank's safety deposit boxes, did not find one at the residence of Mr. Strauss-Kahn nor at his office.

Implicated in the endless Elf scandal and the Paris public housing corruption affairs, Mr. Strauss-Kahn resigned as Minister of Finance last November.

He claims he was given the video by Alain Belot, but says he never looked at it. It is not clear what happened to this copy, except that Mr. Strauss-Kahn says he doesn't know what he did with it.

The judges suspect that Mr. Méry also stashed incriminating documents connected to his 'political collection' activities - and the original of the video? - it is in some place where it has not been found. If it exists at all.

But so far, his 'confession' is based on a copy of a video and the transcription from this, made public by Le Monde.photo: moulin, cemetery montparnasse

By Tuesday night, the judges still had nothing solid, and laid a charge against Mr. Strauss-Kahn for obstructing justice. On Wednesday night the judges were again under way with search warrants, without results.

On Friday, Judge Eva Joly invited Mr. Strauss-Kahn to answer some unrelated questions concerning the affair surrounding the oil giant, Elf.

The moulin in the Montparnasse cemetery.

In effect the video has posed some difficult questions about the possible illegal financing of political parties and major political figures related to them. But since no one seems to be able to produce the original recording, the contents of the circulating copies are unverifiable.

Up to this point it seems like a bad re-make of a sordid 'Politics, Money, Lies and Video' movie but this hasn't stopped some non-implicated politicians from making little sermons while others are murmuring 'amnesty.' As soon as they do this, another gang leaps up and cries 'No!'

Meanwhile the Prime Minister is steadfastly declaring he can't comment about the business, because he knows about as much about it as you or me.

Traffic News

The latest transportation rage is the scooter - in France, the 'trottinette' - which have been hped up with modern engineering and now are to be seen on all Paris sidewalks, utilized by young and old.

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