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French ‘paparazzi queen’ charged in Sarkozy probe

A major figure in France's paparazzi world has been charged with witness tampering in a case involving former president Nicolas Sarkozy, her lawyer told AFP Saturday.

French 'paparazzi queen' charged in Sarkozy probe
Mimi Marchand, known widely as "Mimi", works closely with a host of rich and powerful figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment, including President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. Photo: Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

Mimi Marchand, who runs the BestImage agency, had also been charged with criminal association, said lawyer Caroline Toby. “She firmly denies the charges against her,” she added.

Marchand was arrested on Thursday along with several other suspects on the orders of magistrates investigating alleged corruption by Sarkozy, who has been accused of taking money from former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Sarkozy denies the charges.

READ ALSO: Ex French president Sarkozy, 66, denies claims he ‘skipped the queue’ to get his Covid vaccine

Francois de Labarre, a journalist from Paris Match who was also arrested Thursday, was released without charge later the same day.

Marchand and de Labarre were instrumental in organising an interview in November with one of the main witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine, in which he withdrew his allegations against the former head of state.

Afterwards, speaking to French investigators, Takieddine changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying his words had been “deformed”.

Marchand’s lawyer Toby insisted Saturday that her client had “acted in her capacity as a journalist who had this exclusive interview with Takieddine.

“All she did was organise the photos and the interview, within the parameters of her job,” she added.

Marchand, known widely as “Mimi”, works closely with a host of rich and powerful figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment, including President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.

READ ALSO: Campaign finance trial opens for French ex-president Sarkozy

The investigative website Mediapart, which first reported the detention of Marchand and de Laberre, said they were suspected of “underground negotiations with Mr Takieddine” to convince him to withdraw his allegations against Sarkozy.

Before retracting his claims in the Paris Match interview, Takieddine had always alleged that he delivered suitcases stuffed with five million euros ($6 million) in cash from Tripoli to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.

Marchand’s arrest is the latest twist in years of extraordinary claims and investigations against pugnacious right-winger Sarkozy, who served one term as president, from 2007-2012.

In March, Sarkozy was found guilty of influence-peddling and handed a three-year prison sentence for attempting to influence a judge to obtain information in a separate case.

Most of the sentence was suspended and he is appealing, meaning he is unlikely to go to jail, but he faces other charges including in the cash-from-Libya case.

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POLITICS

‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.

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