'Gotcha' of the Week Arrives

photo: bistro le lutetia, ile st louis

A bistro on the Ile Saint-Louis, facing the Hôtel de Ville.

'Winners' of the Week Arrive Too

Paris:- Sunday, 11. February 2001:- Alfred Sivren, making a surprise touch-down in Frankfurt, only had time to say 'no thanks' to a German parliamentary investigation commission, before taking a French government jet to Paris - where he was whisked straight off to see some judges who have been anxiously waiting to see him for four years.

The 74 year-old traveller, who had spent four days getting from Manilla to France, was a bit pooped on arrival. All the same, the three principal judges saw him on Tuesday night, and informed him of the charges he is facing.

One of these is a catch-all grab-bag called 'Elf,' and the others include the usual doublet of 'Abus de Biens Sociaux' and 'Recel d'Abus de Biens Sociaux,' plus attempted fraud and selling frigates to Taiwan. He also risks having one of the 'Abus' elevatedphoto: valentine window, samaritaine to 'aggravé,' which carries a minimum of ten years in the clink upon conviction.

Not many shopping days left before Valentines.

The dossiers surrounding these charges are contained in two hundred volumes. Because his lawyers are as surprised as the judges by his arrival in France, the current trail involving a part of the 'Elf' iceberg has had to be suspended for a month, so everybody can get up to speed with this new defendant.

In Wednesday's newspaper editions, there was speculation concerning what course Mr. Sivren might take - because everybody seems to think he knows everything - enough to 'blow up the Republic' as some headlines have put it.

Apparently he has several courses open to him - complete confession, complete denial, accuse everybody else, or say he was merely taking orders, as the number two at Elf, the giant oil company.

Then, surprise of surprises, Le Parisien published what it said was Mr. Sivren's address book - first on its Web site on Tuesday evening - and in its editions on Wednesday.

Le Parisien says it did not buy the document nor did it steal it - it says the original Hermés address book came from Manilla and was in the hands of the French judges.

Judging from Le Parisien's photos, it is has published photocopied pages of an address book which it calls a 'véritable document' - with '200 names!' - but it may be a complete fake.

The case now rests until part three begins in about a month. Meanwhile, Mr. Sivren is comfortably lodged in the VIP wing of the Santé, when he isn't having conversations with investigating judges.

Even though bail does not exist in France, Alfred Sivren is not getting any.

Franceland Corp.

At the state's tourism headquarters, Champagne was splashed around freely late in the week as the score for 2000 was toted up - to reveal that France had beaten the world again for sheer numbers of visitors.

Yes folks, you were 75 million of you - you spent 215 billion francs - but you only stayed an average of 5.5 days - or nights - which was quite a bit less than the average visitorphoto: peugeot andreau 1936 stays in Spain, Italy or the United States.

Actually, France is only in third place at the box office where the cash is counted. Also, the French, who are not generally thought to holiday outside of France at all - did so, and spent 100 billion francs on their travels.

When France made spacy cars, they made ones like this 1936 Peugeot 'Andreau.'

World tourism in general increased by 7.4 percent last year, and several countries had increases a lot greater than France's plus of three percent.

The Ile-de-France saw visitors increase from 36 million in 1999 to 40 million last year, which was a larger percentage rise than for the country as a whole. Because of the slowdown in the US economy and its ripple-effect, big increases are not expected this year.

'Strike of the Week' That Wasn't

Many people have the false impression that everybody in Frnce goes on strike at least once a week, and for especially important anniversaries, there are even 'total' strikes of the week.

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