Comédie Française (Imad Lahoud and the “Clearstream Affair”)

Posted by John Rosenthal

The weekend edition (20/21 May) of the French daily Le Figaro contains an interview with Imad Lahoud, alleged to be one of the key players in the so-called “Clearstream affair”. Lahoud worked as an IT specialist at EADS: the “European” aeronautics and armaments firm. As judged by both its ownership and management structures, EADS is in fact essentially a “Franco-German” firm. The French state is one of the major shareholders in EADS. Several of the other principals in the “Clearstream affair” are or were in the management of EADS. They include Jean-Louis Gergorin, a vice-president of EADS. Gergorin has admitted to sending a list of individual account-holders at Clearstream International, a clearing and settlement bank with headquarters in Luxembourg, to the French investigative judge Renaud van Ruymbeke. Clearstream has long been the object of charges according to which it is supposed to operate a complex system of unpublished accounts used for large-scale money-laundering. The apparently doctored list sent by Gergorin to van Ruymbeke indicated that several well-known French politicians held accounts at the bank: including Nicolas Sarkozy. Imad Lahoud is rumored to have been Gergorin’s source for the list.

So much, then, for schematic background. The interview with Lahoud is in fact less significant for the minimal light it throws upon the still murky “Clearstream affair” than for what it suggests about the modus operandi of the French elites – not to mention the technical competencies of French intelligence services. Asked how he came to meet Gergorin, Lahoud responds:

It was 8 October 2002, after a lunch he had with my brother Marwan Lahoud (currently the CEO of a EADS subsidiary – Note by Le Figaro) at the headquarters of EADS. I had just been released from temporary custody [sic.] and he was very nice to me. He asked me to send him a CV. Two or three months later, at a time when I was unemployed, his secretary called me for an appointment. Jean-Louis Gergorin offered me a contract as a consultant.

In a second parenthetical note following the reference to temporary custody, Le Figaro explains: “he [Lahoud] has been charged in a small financial affair”.

A third key figure in the affair, General Rondot, an intelligence officer attached to the French Ministry of Defense, has claimed that Lahoud obtained the original account listings by hacking the Clearstream database and that Lahoud provided him a personal demonstration of how he had hacked into the Clearstream system. In response to these charges, Lahoud says:

I never penetrated the Clearstream system. I never tried. So I never gave any demonstration of how I did it. And anyway: what is he [Rondot] supposed to have understood?… He doesn’t know the difference between a laptop computer and an electric iron.

It is worth noting that Lahoud claims to have first looked into the functioning of the bank – allegedly at the request of the French external intelligence agency, the DGSE – in connection with an investigation of the sources of financing of Islamist networks. It is likewise worth noting that Clearstream International – whose alleged facilitation of money-laundering is the constant presupposition of the entire affair – is a 100% owned subsidiary of the Deutsche Börse, i.e. the German [Frankfurt] Stock Exchange. This detail is virtually never mentioned in the French media reports.

Comments are closed.