Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Paris rumblings

One thing missing from this very interesting New York Times story about a botched Jacques Chirac initiative to send his foreign minister to Iran (an effort to dislodge the Lebanon crisis) concerns this individual --

It [the Iran feelers] had been developed inside Élysée Palace by Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, Mr. Chirac’s national security adviser. When Mr. Gourdault-Montagne met with Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, on the fringes of a security conference in Bahrain last month, Mr. Mottaki suggested that Mr. Douste-Blazy visit Tehran.

Noteworthy because Chirac apparently plans to install Maurice Gourdault-Montagne as head of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), a huge state-owned financial asset manager and a classic sinecure for the country's political elite. So his time horizon may suddenly have grown very short, hence the willingness to take a risk on backdoor negotiations with Iran.

And speaking of French public officials with cushy jobs, the inevitable other shoe has dropped on the over-the-top left wing outrage about the ageless Johnny Hallyday relocating his tax affairs to Switzerland -- the comedy being supplied by politicians who have spent a lifetime with their snouts at the public trough fulminating about Johnny's rational behaviour.

And that other shoe -- Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has apparently been using well structured tax avoidance herself, dumping her 3 residences into a holding company to avoid the wealth tax. The ability of French politicians to accumulate property on public salaries has always been a source of inspiration to their Irish counterparts.

UPDATE: In fairness we should note Sego's side of the story, that a bank required a holding company for one of the properties and thus it's not intended to avoid the wealth tax, which she does pay. Apparently her partner is going to sue one National Assembly member for libel, although one assumes that that the careful distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion applies in this case.

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