The name refers to the Luxembourg bank Clearstream Banking S.A., now wholly owned by Deutsche Börse, which was alleged to have aided many prominent French politicians and companies evade taxes. It was also suggested that Clearstream might have helped French individuals and companies to launder money arising from bribes surrounding the 1991 sale of six La Fayette class frigates to the Republic of China. Clearstream denied the allegations.
Beginning of the affair
A list of accounts supposedly held by French individuals at Clearstream was sent anonymously to investigating magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke on four occasions between May and October 2004. At that time, van Ruymbeke was investigating possible bribes in the 1991 frigate sale. The lists quickly proved to be false, and several of the people named on them pressed charges for "false denunciation".
A list of 895 secret bank accounts was included which were opened by numerous personalities from the business world (including Alain Gomez, Peter Martinez, Philippe Delmas) or politics (including Nicolas Sarkozy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Laurent Fabius, Alain Madelin and Jean-Pierre Chevenement), reportedly passing bribe money for frigates. In particular, lists of secret accounts sent by Lebanese-born banking computer specialist, Imad Lahoud, aka the raven, were trafficked to foreign personalities involved in the Taiwan frigates affair. A survey on the implementation of these fake accounts was then entrusted to judges Jean-Marie d'Huy and Henri Pons.
Sarkozy's main political rival on the right-wing of French politics at the time was Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin. It later transpired that de Villepin had known about the existence of the lists since at least January 2004. As Interior Minister, he would also have known that French secret services considered the lists to be forgeries. However, he did not pass this information on to Judge van Ruymbeke. Villepin was indicted on charges of complicity to false denunciation on 18 November 2008, and tried at the Paris Correctional Court in September and October 2009. He was acquitted of the charges on 28 January 2010. Three co-defendants were convicted for their roles in the affair, while a fifth person was acquitted.
- lefigaro.fr. "Frégates : les juges d'Huy et Pons ont le dossier en mains". Lefigaro.fr. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Les grandes étapes de l'affaire", Libération, 18 September 2009. (French)
- France ex-PM Villepin cleared of Sarkozy smear, BBC News, 28 January 2010