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BURGLARY

French tycoon Tapie tied up and beaten in burglary

Former French minister and scandal-ridden tycoon Bernard Tapie, once the owner of Adidas, was attacked along with his wife during a midnight burglary of their home, police said on Sunday.

French tycoon Tapie tied up and beaten in burglary
Police officers cordon off the area near the house of French businessman Bernard Tapie and his wife Dominique Tapie in Combs-la-Ville, southeastern suburbs of Paris. Photo: Stephane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

The couple were asleep when four men broke into the house in Combs-la-Ville near Paris around 00:30am on Sunday, beat them and tied them up with electrical cords before making off with their loot.

Dominique Tapie managed to free herself and made her way to a neighbour’s home, from where she called the police. Slightly injured from several blows to the face, she was taken to hospital for a check-up.

“She is doing well,” Tapie’s grandson Rodolphe Tapie told AFP.

During the burglary the perpetrators “pulled her by the hair because they wanted to know where the treasure was”, the mayor of Combs-La-Ville, Guy Geoffroy, told AFP. “But of course there was no treasure, and the fact that they didn’t find one only made the violence worse.”

READ ALSO: Paris museum to be renamed for ex French president

Jewellery and a Rolex

Tapie himself, who is 78, received a blow to the head with a club, prosecutor Beatrice Angelelli told AFP, but he declined to be taken into medical care.

“My grandfather refused to be taken away,” Rodolphe Tapie said. “He is shattered, very tired. He was sitting on a chair when he was hit with a club.”

The burglars broke into Tapie’s home, a vast estate known as the “Moulin de Breuil”, through a first-floor window, undetected by the guards.

They made off with two watches, including a Rolex, earrings, bracelets and a ring, according to a source close to the investigation.

Tapie was a Socialist minister who rose from humble beginnings to build a sporting and media empire, but later ran into a string of legal problems.

He made a fortune in the early part of his career by taking over failing companies in corporate raids, stripping them of their assets and selling them for profit during the high-rolling years of financial deregulation in France.

He often flaunted his wealth, including by buying a 72-metre yacht and a football club, Olympique de Marseille, which won the French championship while he was their owner.

He has also been under suspicion of match-fixing in France’s top football league.

He was briefly Minister for Urban Affairs in François Mitterrand’s government in 1992.

Many legal troubles

Tapie was found guilty in a series of cases for corruption, tax fraud and misuse of corporate assets, went to prison for five months and was stripped of the right to stand in any election in France.

After his release from prison in 1997, Tapie added showbiz to his various activities, trying his hand at acting, singing and hosting radio and TV shows.

In 2012, he also became a media boss, taking over southern French daily La Provence and other newspapers.

One fraud case has dogged Tapie for decades, involving a hugely controversial settlement worth 400 million euros ($470 million at current rates) awarded to him by a government arbitration panel, the size of which sent shockwaves through France.

READ ALSO: French tycoon Bernard Tapie’s assets frozen in fraud case

The panel judged he had been the victim of fraud when he sold his stake in the Adidas sports apparel company in 1993 to state-run French bank Crédit Lyonnais, which was found to have undervalued the sportswear brand.

‘Determined’ to stand trial

The case also ensnared then-Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who now runs the European Central Bank. She was found guilty of “negligence”.

Lagarde’s handling of the case sparked suspicion that her former boss Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Tapie had backed for president in 2007, was favourably disposed towards the businessman – allegations Sarkozy has vehemently denied.

Last autumn, Tapie’s fraud trial was postponed for reasons of ill health because he was suffering a double stomach cancer and cancer of the oesophagus which were getting worse.

The trial is due to resume in May, with Tapie “determined” to be present, according to his lawyer.

Police are treating Sunday’s incident as a violent robbery and kidnapping, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

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BURGLARY

The teenage burglary gang behind 1,500 break-ins across south of France

A gang of teenage burglars, mostly girls, are behind 1,500 break-ins carried out over a six-month period in towns across the south of France, French police have revealed.

The teenage burglary gang behind 1,500 break-ins across south of France
Villeneuve-lès-Avignon where the gang were arrested. Photo: Guilhem Velut/flickr

The girls, who were sold to a Serbian gang boss for up to €80,000, would be dropped off in villages or suburbs of towns around the south of France and would break into as many as a dozen houses a day before bringing their loot back to the travellers’ camp they were based in near Avignon.

“The burglars rang the doorbell and if noone answered they would go in and rob whatever they could,” said gendarme officer Laurent Rougès, saying that the crimes were committed last year in towns stretching from Perpignan in the southwest to Cannes on the Riviera.

A majority of the burglaries took place however in the Gard department of which Nimes is the capital.

“They were mostly interested in jewellry, gold, and luxury watches,” Rougès told Objectif Gard news website.

The crime spree came to an end in January when police, after a five-month long investigation, arrested eight people at a travellers’ camp in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, located across the river from the main town of Avignon.

READ ALSO:

Eleven more people were arrested on Monday of this week in the Paris region, including a Serbian man suspected of running the burglary gang from his home near the capital.
 
Police first began to suspect that an organised gang was engaged in a spate of burglaries when they caught two teenage girls breaking into a house in Vergèze, near Nimes, last September.

They later learnt that girls such as the pair they arrested were being sold by their own families to the crime network, for prices ranging from €40,000 to €80,000.

When police made their arrests of the suspects this year, they also seized six kilos of stolen gold, 430 pieces of jewellry or other items of value, €25,000 in cash, and 40 luxury watches.

Police said they would over the coming weeks post pictures of the stolen goods on the Gendarmerie du Gard Facebook page in the hope of tracking down their owners.

They put some of the recovered goods on display when they held a press conference this week to give details of their operation against the burglar gang.

And the burglary capital of France is…?