Elf Oil


Chris Hammer

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

already know.

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.

Helmut Kohl

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.

These allegations

– now under investigation by German, French and Swiss authorities – claim

that Elf made the illegal payments at the behest of the then French President,

Francois Mitterrand.

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?

It`s easy

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

way round.

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?

Yes, right.

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

the Elysees.

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

De Gaulle.

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.

Socialist Francois

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


I thought

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.

The problem

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?

Roughly, yes.

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

foreign minister.

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.

Christine Deviers-Joncour

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.

And concerning

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

a committee?


And I failed.

What happened?

What happened?

We presented our report and it was refused by left and right members of

this commission.

Why? Because

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

and baseless.

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

German decision-makers.

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.

Helmut Kohl`s

image in Germany has plummeted since he admitted he took money from donors

he won`t name.

There doesn`t

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.

Christine Deviers-Joncour

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.