Inside the archives
of the German Chancellor – sensitive files have gone missing.
What exactly was in
the so-called Leuna files, nobody`s saying, but many Germans fear they
There`s a widespread
belief the files have been destroyed to remove evidence of political corruption.
It`s alleged the files
contain information that could further stain the reputation of arguably
the country`s greatest post-war leader, Helmut Kohl.
The former Chancellor
has already confessed to accepting illegal political donations.
Most of the staid German papers are calling this the biggest post-war
scandal in Germany.
Journalist John Goetz
has followed the story for German television.
admitted he took cash payments in his office from people he won`t name.
And until he names who gave him that money, the link to Leuna seems, to
a lot of people, pretty obvious.
Leuna is the name
of this oil refinery in the former East Germany.
The missing files
detail the 1992 sale of the decrepit state-owned refinery to the French
oil company, Elf Aquitaine for $5 billion.
Since then, Elf has
completely rebuilt the refinery at massive cost.
It`s alleged at least
$60 million was creamed off the top of the original deal, with some 15
million finding its way into bank accounts controlled by Helmut Kohl to
illegally bankroll his 1994 re-election campaign.
– now under investigation by German, French and Swiss authorities – claim
that Elf made the illegal payments at the behest of the then French President,
This is the story
of how former French president Francois Mitterrand and his German counterpart,
Helmut Kohl, broke the law, corrupted their respective political systems
and betrayed the faith of their people.
But to tell that story,
first we need to tell another story – the story of the company that owns
the refinery here at Leuna – the French multinational oil company – Elf
Aquitaine – and how it corrupted political systems on two continents (and
reached even as far as Australia).
Elf Aquitaine was
founded by Charles De Gaulle as a fully state-owned oil company back in
the early 60s.
De Gaulle wanted three
things from Elf – a guaranteed oil supply for France independent of the
Anglo-American majors, a guaranteed money supply for his political machine,
and a powerful tool to cement French power over its newly independent
colonies in Africa.
He gave them independence, but after independence, he thought a big oil
company was a way France could have economic, not just political power
and have these countries working for France.
Valerie Lescable has
written an authoritative book on Elf.
You have to
understand that the head of state was the most important person in the
African country, and the number two was the representative of the Elf
To ensure its control
over its client states, Elf concentrated its operations in a handful of
countries – and above all in Gabon and the Congo.
In these countries
it sought monopoly positions in order to assert its power over its hosts.
The former president
of the Congo, Patrice Lissouba, now lives in exile in London.
(Subtitled): Over time Elf became in the Congo, as well as elsewhere,
a great power. An energy power, of course, but also a financial power,
political power, and a politicians` power as well. Elf became a power.
Espionage with police powers.
Patrice Lissouba was
ousted in a bloody coup d`etat in 1997 in which more than 10,000 people
lost their lives.
The former president
is no saint, but the fact remains, he was democratically elected.
And he maintains the
man who violently ousted him, Sassou Nguessou, was backed by Elf Aquitaine.
It was Elf
that made the choice. Sometimes those people who are not wanted, they
don`t even bother to eliminate them. I left. They could have chosen not
to get rid of me. I could have been simply eliminated. If I left it was
because Elf wanted Mr Sassou to come back.
Is it true Elf was
angry because you started negotiations with an American oil company.
It is true.
That is what I heard.
Does Elf have blood
on its hands in the Congo?
to answer, yes. What is harder is to prove it. Elf has blood on its hands,
but it`s especially Sassou that has blood on his hands.
Elf may have been
set up as an instrument of the French state, but by the early 1980s, it
had moved far beyond that.
It had tens of thousands
of employees worldwide and revenues in the billions.
From the top floor
in the Elf Tower near Paris, Elf management was running its own neo-colonialist
empire in Africa.
And instead of the
French Government telling Elf what to do, all too often it was the other
On the outskirts of
Paris lives an old man called Pierre Marion.
He`s retired now,
but back in the early 1980s, he headed the DGSE, the French counterpart
of Asis, MI6 and the CIA.
The people from Elf were interfering in our activities.. we were quite
often in a confrontational situation.
So, Elf would deliberately
interfere with the French state?
And because they were very strongly enmeshed in the same area as me, but
without the same objectives.
I am thinking
of a particular time when I had trouble with Mitterrand because I had
a message from Libreville from Agence France Presse quoting one of my
agents which was not true.
So, Elf deliberately
tried to undermine the standing of the French secret service in the eyes
of the president?
It`s now clear that
by the early 1980s, Elf saw itself as being above the law – not just in
Africa and far flung places like Australia, but right here in France as
You see, Elf wasn`t
just buying African politicians, it was compromising French ones as well.
Every year, Elf operatives
would return from Africa carrying millions of dollars in cash to secretly
and illegally fund the political parties of the French right.
Elf was historically linked to the Gaulist Party, which afterwards became
the RPR with Jacques Chirac. There were two things: it was a way for France
to have influence…No. Not France, but the Gaulist Party to have influence.
And for the Gaulist Party to get some money back to finance the party.
According to Valerie
Lescable, every time Elf signed a new contract in Africa, money was creamed
off the top to illegally fund French politicians.
Within a total
commission, a little part of it, maybe 5% of it, came back to France to
finance the political parties in France, and the Gaulist Party, especially
the Gaulist Party.
This is the man, now
dead, who set up what were to become the Elf political, intelligence and
money networks in Africa – Jacques Foccart – an old comrade of Charles
De Gaulle in the French resistance.
During the war, he
organised clandestine intelligence and financial networks in Africa –
called Les Reseaux in French – to support De Gaulle and the Free French.
After the war, Foccart
maintained these private networks, even 20 years later, as he worked for
President De Gaulle in the Elysees Palace.
Jacques Foccart was not really the man of Elf. He was the man of the resseaux.
At the same time, he had a private network at the same time he was at
Antoine Glaser is
an expert on the French in Africa.
He says Foccart maintained
his reseau – his private networks – and extended them through Elf – even
while he was overseeing the French State secret service for President
He had at
the same time, the parallel reseau at the same time he was at the Elysees.
And he decided all the functionaires, the system was specific, because
thee people were in London with De Gaulle and the resistance. And it was
a real parallel network. A real network of the cold war.
In 1981, the French
political landscape changed.
Mitterrand became the first left-wing president of France since the war.
One of Mitterrand`s
first moves was to appoint a clean-skin named Pierre Marion as the head
of the Secret Service.
But Marion found a
DGSE that had been infiltrated and compromised – he sacked 60 people he
believed were more loyal to Foccart and Elf than they were to France.
Then he sought authority
from President Mitterrand to close down Elf`s intelligence and financial
networks in Africa.
I got the
authorisation from the president to negotiate with Elf. I
had lunch with their chairman, where I invited Mr Chalendon. I said we
could not go on like that. I needed to separate their activities from
those of the state level. And he did agree to do something about it there.
But I did
not have the impression that they would do it, and in fact it was completely
sabotaged later. I had the feeling that situation was not unknown by Mitterrand
So Mitterrand did
not want it to happen. Why?
It is difficult
to say, but it is clear..he gave the impression he was comfortable with
that sort of dual action in Africa.
Did that surprise
at the time I would have the support of the presidency to get things straightened
out. It appeared it was not the case.
It is now clear that
far from closing down the Elf networks, Mitterrand expanded them.
The money really started
to flow from 1988, when Mitterrand appointed Loik Le Floch Prigent as
the head of Elf, who in turn appointed his friend, Alfred Servin as his
second in command.
Servin was the bagman
responsible for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in donations,
bribes and payola.
Karl Laske has followed
the Elf scandal for the newspaper, `Liberation`.
He says that under
Le Floch Prigent, the amount of money flowing out of the country multiplied
five or sixfold, before being laundered and returned to France – all with
the knowledge of Mitterrand`s administration in the Elysees Palace.
Le Floch Prigent was at the heart of this system of commissions. So he,
as the head of Elf, with the agreement of the Elysees and the different
ministries established this system of commissions.
is that half, if not three-quarters of these commissions, have evaporated
into thin air.
This is not merely
journalistic scuttlebutt – Michel Rocard was a fellow socialist and Mitterrand`s
prime minister for three years.
He can confirm that
Mitterrand and his cronies within the party decided not to close down
the Elf networks.
They should have done. One of the reasons I have had during this whole
period, some very bad relationship with President Mitterrand was a disagreement
on these things in politics, including those subjects. But it`s true that
Elf had already helped, given financial assistance to some left-wing members
of parliament too, and it`s true that it was a tool in the French energy
So, it`s your belief
that Francois Mitterrand instead of quashing Elf networks, he got them
to work for him and his allies?
In case you missed
that, Monsieur Rocard answered “Roughly, yes.”
In a small café
in Paris, I met a woman who knows the Elf networks from the inside – a
woman who can corroborate that these networks expanded under Mitterrand.
For Christine Deviers-Joncour
was herself on Elf`s secret payroll.
It`s her testimony
that has helped bring the oil company`s networks out of the shadows and
into the courts.
For back in the early
`90s, Christine Deviers-Joncour was the mistress of Roland Dumas, Mitterrand`s
Elf put her on their
payroll – paying her US$50,000 a month to report on, and to influence,
Dumas and French foreign policy.
DEVIERS-JONCOUR (Subtitles): It was known that I had a good relationship
with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas. Therefore Elf Aquitaine
wanted me to work for them.
Was Roland Dumas aware
you worked for Elf?
Yes, of course,
he was aware that Elf offered me the job and that I had accepted. I was
delighted to accept it. I needed to work at the time. I had left my husband
and was a sole parent with children. He said he was absolutely in agreement
that I should take the job and if I didn`t somebody else would. And that
I was perfectly capable of doing the job.
claims her influence helped reverse Dumas`s veto of a multibillion-dollar
arms sale to Taiwan, and the Elf greased palms in Taipei and Beijing to
facilitate the frigate sale.
She readily confesses
to receiving a $10 million commission from the frigate deal, but she claims
this multimillion-dollar apartment in the swank Paris district of St Germain
de Pres was only held in her name.
This is no case of
illegal political funding, this is an allegation of outright corruption.
the apartment, it was given to Roland Dumas by Elf Aquitaine in gratitude
for helping to nominate Loik Le Floch Prigent as the head of Elf Aquitaine.
I was financially responsible for the apartment.
Roland Dumas, Francois
Mitterrand`s loyal lieutenant.
Just a few months
before his presidency ended, Mitterrand rewarded his old friend by appointing
him head of France`s highest court – the constitutional council.
But just a few weeks
ago, in March this year, the rising tide of scandal forced Dumas to stand
The Left in
France had waited such a long time to come to power. Before they came
to power, and I say this in my book, it`s as if they had their nose pressed
against the window of the cake shop looking at all the cakes. The day
they came to power they got bulimia. They went too fast and they did it
badly. The others had done it before them, but they wanted to go about
it too fast without having the business know-how.
It wasn`t until the
mid-90s that the shadowy world of Elf was finally challenged.
In 1993, Mitterrand`s
conservative prime minister, Eduard Balladur, decided to break the Elf
networks and privatise the company.
But as Antoine Glaser
explains, he wasn`t exactly motivated by altruism.
Shortly after Balladur had become prime minister, he went to Mitterrand
and asked for the head of Loik Le Floch Prigent and asked that he be replaced
by Phillipe Jaffre. Mitterrand answered, “Well, you are a glutton. You
are asking for a lot, Mr Prime Minister.” Mitterrand understood immediately
that if Balladur wanted one of his men
at the head of Elf Aquitaine that he intended becoming a presidential
candidate in 1995.
Balladur did indeed
contest the 1995 presidency and according to Antoine Glaser, the reason
he wanted to break the Elf networks was because he knew they were funding
both his socialist opponents and his Gaulist rival, Jacques Chirac.
It goes to
show how powerful Elf Aquitaine actually is. The minute a prime minister
puts one of his men at the head of Elf Aquitaine, it means he will be
a candidate for the presidency of a republic of France. It goes to prove
the power of this oil company.
The new head of Elf,
a clean skin named Phillipe Jaffre, was shocked to find hundreds of millions
– perhaps billions of dollars unaccounted for.
He turned over ELF`S
INTERNAL DOCUMENTS TO French prosecutors.
Loik Le Floch Prigent
was eventually jailed for embezzlement and his deputy – Elf`s chief bagman,
Alfred Servin, fled Europe and is still at large.
Jaffre was the one who started “the Elf Affair” and the misappropriation
of public funds by Elf by starting legal proceedings against his predecessor
Loik Le Floch Prigent by accusing him of diverting funds. That`s
when “the Elf Affair” began. Before that, everything was fine. Everyone
was happy, the company, the political parties. Everything was happy.
But even today, it`s
hard to say if the Elf networks have been truly broken. When Noel Mamere
the leader of the Greens in the French parliament, recently tried to set
up a parliamentary inquiry into Elf`s role in Africa, politicians from
the left and right united to block it.
You tried to establish
And I failed.
We presented our report and it was refused by left and right members of
the left and right are responsible for this French policy in Africa. It
was de Gaulle and Mitterrand and now Chirac.
What is clear, is
that under Phillipe Jaffre, the murky world inside Elf`s Paris headquarters
started to be reformed, but there was one deal he could not veto.
Despite his opposition,
Mitterrand insisted Elf proceed with the purchase of the Leuna oil refinery
in the old East Germany.
To Jaffre, the deal
made little commercial sense, but for Mitterrand it would help cement
France`s influence in eastern Europe.
And for the dying
president, it may have offered something else – it could help get Helmut
Kohl re-elected, and thereby guarantee the introduction of the euro and
complete the pair`s great European project.
Loik Le Floch
Prigent himself said that the impetus for this operation came from Mitterrand.
For the moment there is no proof there was an agreement between Mitterrand
and Helmut Kohl to finance the CDU. We don`t know that for sure.
But according to Karl
Laske, what is known is that each year the head of Elf went to the Elysees
Palace with a list detailing each and every commission, secret or not,
legal or not.
So, the Elysees
must have at least been aware of the extent of the commissions being paid
and, let us say, the extent of the disaster. For the moment, we don`t
have any proof of direct complicity of return favours, but the Elysees
was absolutely aware of the total amount and the amount paid to each operation.
In Germany, with the
Leuna files missing, the only evidence directly connecting Kohl with payola
from the refinery deal is the word of a former French intelligence officer.
And Friedrich Bohl,
Helmut Kohl`s right hand man and the minister who was responsible for
the safekeeping of the Leuna files, says there was no need for Elf to
bribe German politicians.
BOHL: We wanted Elf Aquitaine to be involved, therefore any suggestion
of a bribe is ridiculous. This Federal Republic was never bribable. So
any criticism should be rebuked. Also the criticism against me personally
that files were removed or destroyed, that criticism is totally unfounded
The only problem with
Herr Bohl`s denial is that he`s now under investigation by Swiss prosecutors
for – you guessed it – taking bribes from Elf Aquitaine.
Meanwhile, it`s come
to light a lobbyist linked to Kohl`s CDU named Dieter Holzer did definitely
receive secret commissions from Elf for the Leuna deal, and that he then
laundered the money with the assistance of a German politician, Max Strauss.
It`s come out that Dieter Holzer received 15 million marks from Elf Aquitaine
as a commission for his work in selling the refinery to Elf Aquitaine.
And no-one knows what he got the money for. The new
thing is that state prosecutors are making the charge that money from
Elf Aquitaine was funnelled through Holzer and Max Strauss to influence
So far, no direct
evidence has emerged Helmut Kohl took money from Elf.
But there is proof
Elf`s networks have indeed sullied German politics, and Kohl himself has
admitted taking illegal, anonymous donations.
Prosecutors in Germany,
Switzerland and France are now pursuing the money trail to see if the
two cases are linked.
image in Germany has plummeted since he admitted he took money from donors
he won`t name.
appear to be an end in sight to the scandal…new revelations are constantly
coming to light. It`s certainly a very big story in post-war German history.
It`s hard to say how big, because it certainly isn`t finished yet.
Kohl and Mitterrand
will go down in history as the men who united Europe.
But inevitably that
history will now carry a shameful footnote – both men broke the law, both
men corrupted their political systems, and both men betrayed the trust
of their people.
Alfred Servin remains
a fugitive. Last month, he narrowly escaped capture in the Philippines.
played a prominent role in last month`s Taiwanese elections, providing
evidence of government corruption.
Roland Dumas is expected
to face a French court in July to answer corruption charges.
The German CDU elected
a new leader this week. Angela Merkel is promising a new era of “complete
In September 1999,
Elf Aquitaine merged with France`s Totalfina, creating the world`s fourth
largest oil company.