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 hyped up with modern engineering and now are to be seen on all Paris sidewalks, utilized by young and old.

As 'modern' as these new versions are,photo: safari on boul st germain you still see many of them being carried on buses, which suit longer distances a bit more.

Other sights involve the difficulties encountered while unfolding them, or folding them up again to be portable.

Since they seem a bit more clumsy than rollers, the question has risen about the appropriateness of their usage on sidewalks.

Guys on safari patrol on Boulevard Saint-Germain sidewalks will not amuse the police.

The police préfect's official line is that users - of both rollers and trottinettes - are pedestrians and therefore both means of self-locomotion are restricted to sidewalks.

The question is being fundamentally examined by interested parties in the Ministry of Youth and Sport, but some politicians think it should be a matter for the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of the Interior, or both.

Meanwhile, police have confirmed that they are more willing to hand out tickets to bicyclists using the sidewalks.

Gas Update

On Wednesday, the Total oil group announced it was lowering the price of fuel by 20 centimes. Other oil companies are expected to copy the measure. Today the government announced about the same reduction in the tax on fuel. Motorists can expect the saving on the tax reduction alone to about equal the price of an express café when filling up their tanks.

Sports News

France won the recently concluded Olympic Games in a manner of speaking. Having won 37 medals at Atlanta in 1996, France's athletic goal in 2000 was to break its own 'personal' record, and it did. By one medal.

This was, in fact, a respectable result.

Professional critics - in France - say that French trainers do their 'little thing in their own little corners' and don't consider the whole state of French athletics, as if it were some sort of national corporation.

These critics also say French athletes are too 'individualistic,' and not regimented like some professional army; as used to be the case in East Germany.

France also won a lot of fourth places, which are out of the magic metals, but very close to them. But while some bicyclists, fencers, horse riders and sailors were narrowly missing the third step on the hero's podium, French basketballers went all the way to silver, being less than slaughtered by the US team in the finals.

Who ever heard of 'French basketballers' before? The last time they copped a medal was 52 years ago.

While it is true French cyclists missed out in two disciplines, they gathered a total of eight medals, of which five were gold. Jeannie Longo's performance was outstanding - at her age of 42.

Web Life In France:

Grape Season, Continued

If you are an active fan of the red, white and rosé juices - like some astute Metropole readers - you can follow their seasonal progress from the vine to the part where the well-built but lithe Italian ladies hold their skirts up high and dance raisins into pre-wine goo in giant vats.

Even if this pleasant idea is no more than a fiction, the Web site Wine Today watches over this throughout the northern hemisphere, but the link included here should give you the section focusing on France.

Past Olympic Games

Since this year's Olympic Games are now over they fall into the historical category and therefore intophoto: rain, bd st germain the Olympic Museum, which has the history in text, photos and video of all the Olympics, plus all the latest developments - including, I suppose - a roundup of the games just over.

Rain on the boulevard, tea in the warm café.

In case you are wondering what the Olympics used to look like - without advertising - the Olympic Television Archive Bureau has a Web site with old films, plus new films showing all the logos and stadium slogans in color.

The 'Official' Weather, For Better or Worse

Météo France gets another run this week on account of approaching winter and my concern with my apartment's heating or lack thereof. This is the official source for France's TV-weather people. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours or be 'great.' 'Tis the season.

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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