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French report French report
by Euro Reporter
2010-11-05 08:48:02
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French 'heist of the century' thief has sentence extended

An appeals court has toughened the prison sentence of an armoured car driver convicted of stealing millions of Euros (dollars) in an unusual 2009 heist. The court in Lyon on Tuesday gave Tony Musulin a five-year prison sentence and 45,000 Euros ($63,150) in fines. He had been sentenced in May to three years in prison and the same fine, but the public prosecutor’s office appealed.

In November 2009, Musulin and two other security workers picked up 11.6 million Euros from a Banque de France branch in Lyon. They then stopped at another bank and while the two others were inside, Musulin fled with the cash. He turned himself in after 11 days on the run. Investigators found 9.1 million Euros of the loot hidden in a van, but the rest of the money has never turned up.


Workers vote to end pension strikes at oil refineries

Workers at France’s biggest oil port broke a month-long strike on Friday, and refinery workers also ended walkouts, ending a bitter showdown with President Nicolas Sarkozy over his flagship pension reform. The first of several dozen oil tankers moored off the southern port of Marseille could start offloading from Friday evening, local CGT union official Pascal Galeote said after workers at the Fos-Lavera terminal voted for an end to action that had put a stranglehold on refineries.

The strikes, which drained petrol pumps and forced up fuel imports, were the culmination of months of protests against Sarkozy’s plan to lift the retirement age and a major test for the president. Stuck with dismal popularity ratings 18 months before a presidential election, Sarkozy looks stronger for having stared down France’s influential trade unions with a law he says will stem a gaping pension deficit.

Unions still fiercely oppose the law, however, and a clause in the text offering a fuller pension review in 2013 means the issue may yet come back to haunt Sarkozy. “All this leaves marks, burns even,” a government minister told Reuters this week, on condition of anonymity. The Fos-Lavera strike, which began over local issues but overlapped with the wider anti-pension protests, ended a day after low turnout at street marches showed enthusiasm waning. Marseille port authorities said it would take about a month to clear the backlog of oil tankers.


Embattled magistrate surrenders control of Bettencourt scandal probe

French state prosecutor on Friday said he would relinquish control of preliminary inquiries into a sprawling politico-financial scandal linked to France’s richest woman, the L’Oreal billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. Philippe Courroye, who is widely regarded as being close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the political circle allegedly implicated in the scandal, handed over the investigation to three judges.

In France, judges, unlike state prosecutors, are independent from the authority of the justice ministry. The handover came days after Courroye’s direct superior, Versailles state prosecutor Philippe Ingall-Montagnier, requested him to relinquish control of the inquiry. It marked a stinging rebuke of Courroye, who has come under intense criticism from opposition politicians and magistrates’ unions for his handling of the case.

The inquiry into the scandal, dubbed the Bettencourt Affair in France, involves multiple accusations, including tax evasion by Bettencourt and claims of illegal campaign donations to the ruling UMP party. Criticisms over the inquiry has further complicated an already murky affair and raised concerns about the independence of France’s judiciary.


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