Pierre Falcone: the man who was wrongly labeled as an arms’ dealer

Pierre Falcone: the man who was wrongly labeled as an arms’ dealer

Paris : France | Jun 13, 2012 at 7:48 AM PDT
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Le Monde, France's most prestigious newspaper, may soon end up in foreign hands as it seeks a saviour

For years, all seemed united against one man: Pierre Falcone. But as time went time, all of the charges against him were dropped, most persons who got involved in the case were ridiculed or accused of being biased and the press was discredited.

Indeed, on May 23rd 2012, one of the most famous and popular French newspapers, Le Monde, was sentenced for violation of his presumption of innocence for having published an article back in 2009 saying that he was one of the “key players of a corrupt system of many French personalities”.

Today however, it seems that Pierre Falcone was actually a victim in this case and the fact that the prestigious journal Le Monde was just sentenced once again puts into perspective and into question the way that this whole affair was handled.

About a year ago, in April 2011, the Paris Court of Appeal has indeed put an end to one of the worst judicial soap operas of recent years, better known as the Angolagate. No illicit arms trade. No influence peddling. So the release and freedom for Pierre Falcone who had wrongly been labeled as an arms’ dealer by the courts and by the press and initially sentenced to six years in prison.

It is indeed without any preconceived ideas that the President of the Court of Appeal, Alain Guillou, understood that the plot arose from an arms deal made in the early 1990's from Paris, between Angola and Russia, through the Slovak company ZTS. The $ 790 million contract rose Philippe Courroy’s suspicion in 2000, the examining magistrate during the first trial (in an inquisitorial system of law such as in France, the examining magistrate is the judge who carries out investigations into cases and arranges prosecutions).

Illicit trade, influence peddling, tax evasion: in total, 42 persons had been sentenced including Pierre Falcone, former Interior minister Charles Pasqua and the son of former French President François Mitterrand, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand. Out of 42, 21 of them appealed the decision.

Fortunately, at the appeal, previously neglected parts of evidence have been exhumed.

The trial particularly showed that French justice was in no way concerned by the arms trade.

First, the transaction took place in the context of longstanding agreements between Russia and Angola, through the company ZTS. Russian and Portuguese letters, previously un-translated, proved it during the appeal. "The contracts made with the Slovak company ZTS Osos had all of the legally required authorizations and have been made in full compliance with international law as well as with the Angolan and Slovak legislation" underlines the decision.

Moreover, Pierre Falcone was not acting on his behalf but as a representative, mandated by the Republic of Angola: "in a statutory declaration dated 7 April 1997, the President of the Republic of Angola says he commissioned Pierre-Joseph Falcone as his representative to ensure the full implementation of the contract”.

Finally, Hervé Morin, Minister of Defense until November 2010, sent for the second time a letter dated January 24, 2011 to the court in which he stresses that the investigations conducted by the services of his former department found, he writes, "an absence of illicit trade in weapons since the military equipment had never been on French territory, which excludes by principle the application of French law on arms trade". Could it be any clearer? Hervé Morin had sent the same letter to Philippe Courroye. However, it had never been acknowledged.

Today, the Angolagate is more considered as a plot, invented by some men of influence in the circles of the judiciary and politics, in order to prevent Charles Pasqua to run for the French presidential elections. Pierre Falcone was collateral damage.

It remains a scandal in legal history which almost destroyed the life and reputation of many.

Today, Pierre Falcone mainly resides in China, where he runs his company Pierson Capital.

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People visit the stand of French daily newspaper Le Monde in March 2010, during the Paris' book fair
People visit the stand of French daily newspaper Le Monde in March 2010, during the Paris' book fair
Chris Sessel is based in Paris, Île-de-France, France, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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