One of the most powerful figures in French media, dubbed the ‘Queen of Paparazzi’, is under arrest for allegations that she paid Amal Clooney’s uncle to retract his claim that ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy had received campaign money from Colonel Gaddafi.
Mimi Marchand, a journalist from Paris Match magazine who runs the BestImage agency, was taken into custody for questioning in Nanterre, west of Paris.
Marchand, 74, was detained and her home was searched on orders from magistrates investigating Sarkozy’s alleged corruption.
Mimi Marchand (pictured), 74, a journalist from Paris Match magazine who runs the BestImage agency, was taken into custody for questioning in Nanterre, west of Paris, on charges of witness tampering
Journalist Francois de Labarre was also arrested, but was released without charge on Thursday evening.
Marchand, commonly known as ‘Mimi’, works closely with many rich and powerful figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment, including President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.
Marchand and de Labarre were instrumental in organizing a November interview with one of the key witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine, 70, in which he retracted his allegations against the former head of state.
Sarkozy denies receiving any money from Gaddafi, saying “the truth is finally coming to light” after Takieddine, the uncle of human rights lawyer Clooney, withdrew his claim.
Then, in conversation with French investigators, Takieddine changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying his words were “distorted.”
Marchand was detained and her home was searched by magistrates investigating alleged corruption by former French President Nicholas Sarkozy (pictured), who was accused of taking money from former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi. He denies the allegations
The investigative website Mediapart, which broke the news of Marchand and de Laberre’s detention, said the pair were suspected of having “underground negotiations with Mr Takieddine” to convince him to withdraw his allegations against Sarkozy.
Under French law, this can be a criminal offense of witness tampering.
Paris Match condemned the arrest of one of its journalists, which she said was “contrary to all democratic principles.”
Christophe Deloire, head of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that it was “clearly disproportionate” that five armed officers knocked on a journalist’s door in front of their small child and that the arrest was part of a “deplorable legal process.”
Before retracting his claims in the Paris Match interview, Takieddine had always claimed that he delivered suitcases filled with five million euros (about £4.3 million) in cash from Tripoli to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.
Marchand and journalist Francois de Labarre, who was also taken into custody but released without charge on Thursday evening, helped organize a November interview with one of the key witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine (pictured), 70, in which he expressed himself. withdrew his allegations against the former head of state
Thursday’s arrests are the latest twists in years of extraordinary claims and investigations against the combative right-wing Sarkozy, who served one term in office from 2007-2012.
Celebrated for her ability to organize favorable press coverage and photos, Marchand has worked closely with Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni in the past.
Her lawyer declined to comment when contacted.
In March, Sarkozy was found guilty of inducement and sentenced to three years in prison for attempting to influence a judge to obtain information in a separate case.
Most of the sentence was postponed and he is appealing, meaning he is unlikely to go to jail, but he faces other charges, including the Libya cash case.
Then, in conversation with French investigators, Takieddine, Amal Clooney’s uncle (pictured), changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying his words were ‘distorted’