Graft inquiry into French ‘Pentagon’

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into possible corruption over the construction of a new complex for the Defence Ministry in Paris, investigative weekly daily Le Canard Enchaîné reveals.

Investigators suspect French construction giant Bouygues was given a head start over other companies that were bidding for the work.

In May, Bouygues signed a contract with the government to build a massive new complex nicknamed the “French Pentagon” for the Defence Ministry. The complex is scheduled to be finished by 2014 and the state is to make annual payments of €100 to 150 million to Bouygues for 27 years.

Le Canard Enchaîné however alleges Bouygues was given the plans and specifications of the new complex before the other firms were allowed to work on them.

The Paris procecutor has opened an inquiry into corruption.

Defence Minister Gérard Longuet, who took office in February 2011, said he was unaware the new complex was being investigated.

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro