Report: Sarkozy aides enlisted spies to stop press leaks
The French daily Le Monde said Monday that aides for President Nicolas Sarkozy enlisted intelligence agents to stop government leaks about the investigations concerning Labour Minister Eric Woerth and L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, DPA reported.
As a result, the newspaper will file a legal complaint, against unknown parties, for violation of the protection of confidential sources.
Among other things, Woerth is suspected of accepting an illegal contribution of 150,000 euros (192,000 dollars) from the man who manages Bettencourt's fortune, Patrice de Maistre, for Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign.
According to Le Monde, its publication in mid-July of police testimony by Maistre particularly irritated people in the Elysee Palace, seat of the French president.
The story, titled "Liliane Bettencourt's main advisor makes things difficult for Woerth," was published shortly before the labour minister himself was due to be questioned by police.
Sources at the French national police (DGPN) and the domestic intelligence service (DCRI) told the daily they were then ordered to put an end to the leaks.
Consequently, DGPN and DCRI agents were charged, without legal support, with finding the source of the leaks within the government, Le Monde alleges.
After examining all those who had access to the transcript of Maistre's police testimony, the agents identified David Senat, an advisor to Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, as the likeliest source.
Senat's telephone was then subjected to expert technical examination, and an operator provided the names of people with whom he'd had phone conversations. One of those names was the author of the Le Monde article.
The weekly Le Nouvel Observateur reported that Senat has been fired from his post as a result of the investigation.
Le Monde says that the procedure violated the French law on the protection of confidential sources, a law that was reinforced by the current government in January of this year.
Sarkozy's office vigourously denied the accusation.