[PEN-L:36358] buying the Parties-State
Former French Oil Chief Says Company Paid Millions to Political Parties
By Pierre-Antoine Souchard
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 1, 2003; 12:00 AM
PARIS -- The former president of Elf Aquitaine testified Monday that the
French oil giant paid about $5 million to French political parties
during his leadership -- including to President Jacques Chirac's former
Loik Le Floch-Prigent said nearly all the money went to Chirac's former
party until then-President Francois Mitterrand, a Socialist, demanded
the cash be spread to both sides of the political spectrum. Chirac, a
conservative, succeeded Mitterrand as president in 1995.
"We absolutely needed French politicians who supported us," Le
Floch-Prigent testified. "There were politicians who didn't want to
favor Elf ... We had to keep them quiet, to have them on our side."
Le Floch-Prigent was Elf's president from 1989 to 1993. He is one of 37
former top officials on trial over allegations that Elf, once France's
largest company, paid and received enormous commissions and used
inflated bills and other devices to enrich a chosen few.
Le Floch-Prigent testified March 19 that leaders of African nations
where Elf did business were among the beneficiaries of lucrative
Le Floch-Prigent faces myriad charges, including abuse of company funds,
publication of false information and presentation of inaccurate
During his leadership, the state-run company allegedly misused more than
$145 million in public funds. Elf was privatized in 1994 and taken over
in 1999 by TotalFina, making it a French-Belgian concern.
Le Floch-Prigent's testimony was certain to rattle France's political
elite. Chirac's office had no immediate comment on the testimony.
Le Floch-Prigent testified that, under his leadership, Elf paid parties
in the political right, including Chirac's Rally for the Republic, and
left. The funds were skimmed off commissions paid on oil deals, he said.
A previous corruption case that centered on Elf, one of the world's
largest oil companies, ended in January. Le Floch-Prigent is serving a
30-month jail term from that trial and faces five years in prison if
convicted this time.
Le Floch-Prigent said the man once known within Elf as "Mr. Africa,"
Andre Tarallo, took care of parties on the right, while Alfred Sirven,
the former No. 2 man, handled the left.
Tarallo and Sirven are among the top defendants in the case. Sirven fled
France but was arrested in the Philippines in 2001 and received a
three-year sentence in the earlier trial.
Le Floch-Prigent was first jailed for questioning in the case in 1996,
when he headed the state-run train authority, the SNCF.