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NEWS | Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Maltese court upholds appeal to make ‘Dede la Sardine’ pay

Matthew Vella

A Maltese Court of Appeal has upheld a French court sentence that ordered the notorious Elf Aquitaine negotiator Andre Guelfi to pay millions of euros back to the company.
Guelfi, 90, moved to Malta in 2000 and today lives in Madliena.
As a negotiator for the French oil company Elf Aquitaine, in 1992 he was the link for some €30 million of commissions from Elf’s ‘black box’ of secret funds to German businessmen and lobbyists, some linked to Helmut Kohl, when Elf bought the Leuna refinery in East Germany.
The Maltese courts have upheld a request by Elf Aquitaine to enforce a Parisian sentence confirmed in the Cour de Cassation, ordering Guelfi to pay his former employers Elf (today part of Total) the total sums of €31.2 million (Lm14.2 million) and $13.3 million (Lm3.9m) for misappropriation to the detriment of Elf.
As an EU member, the French court sentence can be executed in Malta. But Guelfi has lodged his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Guelfi was the negotiator for Elf whose business and political connections turned him into a secret conduit for millions of dollars from French to German politicians, through his bank accounts in Switzerland and his involvement in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he cashed in on his friendship with IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch for deals worth millions and millions of dollars.
As Elf negotiator, Guelfi was a key intermediary between French president Francois Mitterrand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl in the channelling of funds to German government representatives for political purposes.
The payments were commissions funnelled through Elf Aquitaine for its purchase of the Leuna oil refinery and the Minol network of service stations in former East Germany after German reunification. The commissions, which drove up the price paid for the East German assets, was allegedly Mitterrand’s desire to bolster his political partnership with Kohl at a time of European consolidation.
But the Leuna affair soon led to Kohl’s political disgrace when the institutionalised corruption between the French state and the oil company was unravelled in the biggest ever corruption trial in French history.
37 defendants stood accused of accepting nearly €400 million from Elf Aquitaine for personal enrichment and political kickbacks during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They included Loïk le Floch-Prigent, the former head of Elf; Roland Dumas, the former Socialist foreign minister (and Mitterrand confidant); Dumas’s mistress, the self-styled “whore of the Republic” Christine Deviers-Joncour; Andre Guelfi, known as Dede la Sardine; and Dr Laurent Raillard, Mitterrand’s frequent golf partner and coach.
The investigating magistrate uncovered substantial evidence that le Floch-Prigent used Elf cash to enrich himself and the Mitterrand entourage, such as hiring the unqualified Deviers-Joncour on a fat salary, with a free luxury flat and use of a company credit card. The bribes were actually paid to her to influence her lover the foreign minister Roland Dumas at the behest of Elf.
It was the Elf connection that landed Guelfi a three-year suspended jail sentence in 1997, when an investigating magistrate was pressuring him to cooperate as a witness. For his part in the far wider affair he was given the jail sentence and a €1 million fine.

Secret Elf
Total originated as Elf Aquitaine, founded by General De Gaulle. Elf Aquitaine was privatised in 1994 and merged into TotalFinaElf.
The declared intention was to secure the oil interests of France in its former African colonies. Long known in Paris as the “Ministry of Oil”, Elf’s riches were used to maintain Paris-friendly dictators in African states.
The allegation is that African coups were directly sponsored by Elf. Elf has routinely served as a cover for secret French governmental operations, which included the bribing of African leaders and money laundering in Latin America. Elf used a system of split commissions as a way of maintaining French influence and later subsidising Gaullist political activities.
This work was carried on by interior minister Charles Pasqua, who used Elf corporate planes on more than 70 occasions for political and personal reasons. The free travel was said to have been organised by Guelfi.
Apart from funding French politicians, Elf was deeply involved in political payoffs in Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon.
In 2003, Loïk Le Floch-Prigent, former chief executive of Elf Aquitaine, was entenced to five years in prison for embezzlement at the former French state oil group. The scandal, which came to light in 1994 in France, was according to The Guardian ‘the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War... Elf became a private bank for executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewellery, fine art, villas and apartments’.

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Andre Guelfi

Born 1919 in Mazagan, Morocco, the son of a Corsican military officer. At age 10, Guelfi chauffered tourists along the beach.
At 16 he became a debt collector for the local bank, becoming bank manager and investing in the sardine industry. He introduced refrigeration aboard the ships, pioneering a technique of freezing sardines and earning himself the nickname ‘Dede la Sardine’.
During the war he enlisted in a Moroccan regiment in Italy and became a driver.
He started racing in 1950 mainly in North Africa driving first a Delahaye, then a Jaguar. In 1953 he came to international prominence racing a Gordini sports car, taking it to class and outright wins at Agadir. In 1954 he took a class win and sixth overall at Le Mans. In 1958 Andre switched to rear-engined Cooper, finishing second in the Prix de Paris at Montlhery. He also raced in the first and last Grand Prix of Morocco when an F2 class was added to bolster the field. He was the last classified finisher.
He settled in Paris in the 1970s, working in real estate, and married the niece of French president Georges Pompidou. His contacts built him a small empire, acquiring 128 of the city’s buildings. His Lausanne mansion, overlooking Lake Geneva, was later sold to the Musée Olympique in 1993. He also purchased a private jet.
After his suspended jail sentence, he wrote his life-story in 1999 and bought the Le Coq Sportif company, moving to Malta in 2000.

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mvella@mediatoday.com.mt



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