PenelopeGate and other French scandals

It’s almost as if they can’t help themselves.

Here in France, we watch – in the beginning stupefied, now utterly cynical – as one politician after the next either lies, cheats, steals, has sex with someone, assaults a chambermaid in a New York hotel, runs a prostitution ring, or stashes millions in a Swiss bank account. You name it, they’ve done it. Whatever they do, it runs against the Ten Commandments. And I only mention the Ten Commandments because these people present themselves as upright, moral, irreproachable model citizens.

It’s all a lie.

Before I mention yesterday’s scandal, here’s the political scandal that broke today:

François FILLON, ex-prime minister to President Sarkozy and running on the Christian (Catholic) platform to be the next president of France, allegedly paid his British wife, Penelope, an extremely generous salary from public funds (€500,000 over a period of 8 years!) Until now, no-one had ever heard of her. Today, media everywhere is blaring WHO IS PENELOPE???

She must be cowering in the cowshed of their country manor.

What work did she do to earn a salary of around €7,000 a month between the late 1990s and early 2010?

Here they are, looking like irreproachable model citizens.


Here’s what today’s The Guardian says –

France’s financial prosecutor has opened a preliminary investigation into the possible misuse of public funds by the rightwing presidential candidate François Fillon and his British wife. A newspaper alleges that she has been paid about €500,000 in eight years from parliamentary funds for what it claims could be a fake job.

The issue is potentially deeply damaging for Fillon, who has not only styled himself as squeaky clean and immune to the sleaze allegations of French politics, but who has also campaigned on an austerity platform to cut wasteful public spending and axe 500,000 civil servant jobs.

Despite 35 years in politics, including five years as prime minister, Fillon has presented himself in the presidential race as an anti-system candidate and an honest, austere and “irreproachable” antidote to years of corruption scandals on the French right.

Until now, Penelope Fillon has been regarded as never having played a key role in her husband’s political life and has described her main occupation as raising their five children. After her husband became prime minister in 2007, she told The Sunday Telegraph that she preferred being at the couple’s 12th-century chateau near Le Mans, western France, with her five children and five horses than in Paris. She said of the city: “I’m just a country peasant, this is not my natural habitat.”

Yesterday’s scandal was this – Claude Guéant, former Chief of Staff to Nicolas Sarkozy and also Minister of the Interior was sentenced to one year in prison for awarding himself envelopes of cash from police funds; in other words, misappropriation of public funds. Guéant later rose to become interior minister from 2011 to 2012, in charge of France’s policing and security. The judges found that Guéant was the instigator of the scheme and that his actions contravened “republican values”. The court said he had obtained the funds with the sole aim of “personal enrichment”.

Here he is, looking like a morally upright (somewhat constipated) model citizen.


And last month’s scandal was Christine Lagarde, managing director of the Washington-based IMF (International Monetary Fund), who took over from disgraced DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn). Lagarde is accused of criminal negligence while failing to prevent a massive government payout (a €403 million arbitration deal) to a corruption-tainted business tycoon, Bernard Tapie. At the time she was France’s finance minister.

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde started her career as an anti-trust and labor lawyer at the international law firm, Baker & McKenzie. Here she is, looking like a morally upright (very stylish) model citizen.

Looks can be deceiving, can’t they?


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