The Nation’s Wishful Thinking: ‘French May Indict Cheney’

Doug Ireland, writing in The Nation, asks Will the French Indict Cheney?. While no expert on the subject, my sense of French prosecutorial independence is that there's less of it than, say, one finds in Italy. In other words, while there may be some ugly facts, short of a confession on video, there would be no prosecution unless the French central government wanted one. And I'd be rather surprised if they wanted one right about now. Unless they really hate Bush, which I suppose is possible.

Then again, if anyone is up to bucking the French establishment, it's Judge [French prosecutors are judges] Van Ruymbeke, who has already prosecuted major French politicians for taking bribes from ELF…

Yet another sordid chapter in the murky annals of Halliburton might well lead to the indictment of Dick Cheney by a French court on charges of bribery, money-laundering and misuse of corporate assets.

At the heart of the matter is a $6 billion gas liquification factory built in Nigeria on behalf of oil mammoth Shell by Halliburton—the company Cheney headed before becoming Vice President—in partnership with a large French petroengineering company, Technip. Nigeria has been rated by the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International as the second-most corrupt country in the world, surpassed only by Bangladesh.

One of France's best-known investigating magistrates, Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke—who came to fame by unearthing major French campaign finance scandals in the 1990s that led to a raft of indictments—has been conducting a probe of the Nigeria deal since October. And, three days before Christmas, the Paris daily Le Figaro front-paged the news that Judge van Ruymbeke had notified the Justice Ministry that Cheney might be among those eventually indicted as a result of his investigation.

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