PARIS—The French justice system is currently investigating the alleged Japanese bank account of former French President Jacques Chirac, in what could become more than a simple corruption investigation. French Defense Minister Herve Morin announced on Dec. 30th that 13 secret documents that could help understand the alleged murder of Tahiti journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud—linked with the bank account—will be declassified.
The documents have been kept under legal seal since Tahiti Judge Jean-François Redonnet ordered them seized from the offices of the DGSE, French secret services.
Judge Redonnet is trying to understand why Jean-Pascal Couraud, a prominent opponent of the then Polynesian President Gaston Flosse, disappeared 11 years ago. As Chief Editor of a local Polynesian newspaper Tahiti News, Couraud was investigating the possible transfer of funds from a major Polynesian company to an alleged secret account of President Jacques Chirac in a bank in Japan.
Couraud—whose body has never been found—has officially committed suicide, a hypothesis strongly rejected by his family. In December 2004 his family filed a suit for murder on the basis of a confession from a local secret service agent. According to this confession, Jean-Pascal Couraud was killed for having obtained substantial information about financial links between former Polynesian President Gaston Flosse and former French President Jacques Chirac.
On Dec. 29, the attorney of the Couraud family created a storm by revealing to the French media the content of a letter seized in September in the personal office of Gaston Flosse.
In the letter, attributed to deceased Polynesian agent Vetea Cadousteau, Polynesian secret services are accused of having kidnapped Couraud and torturing him to reveal where his files were hidden. The journalist was then weighted and thrown in 2km deep water, it said.
Cadousteau, who in his letter claims to have participated in the event, was found dead in January 2004 in strange circumstances. Another member of local secret services in October 2004 mentioned the death of Redonnet in exactly the same terms, before retracting his statement.
Jacques Chirac has repeatedly claimed that the alleged Japanese bank account does not exist and has been a rumor spread by the opposition at the time he contested the polls in 2002, for a second 5-year period as French President. Polynesian President Gaston Flosse, upon the release of the letter, immediately called it a “manipulation” launched by French officials meant to destabilize him.
Some commented that the declassification of the secret service files came at a very convenient time, and raises suspicions that the move could be President Sarkozy’s revenge against Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, who together used every means to prevent him from acceding French presidency. Dominique de Villepin, former French Prime Minister, is currently being sued for allegedly taking part in a plot to have Sarkozy accused of corruption in 2004.