Monday, March 14, 2011

What the French are obsessing about, Chirac, ETA, diamonds in the drain

Here's the update on Chirac; no guillotine and not even a trial.
Following up on Chirac’s case from last week’s post - his criminal trial began Monday, but it was quickly suspended. Mr. Chirac, 78, the first head of state to be tried since the Vichy leader Philippe Pétain was convicted of treason in 1945, is accused of padding the Paris payroll with ghost workers who were political cronies while he was mayor from 1977 to 1995.
But on Monday, his lawyers challenged a previous decision to dismiss a statute of limitations on the charges, arguing that it violated the Constitution. The judge suspended the hearing, saying he would rule later on whether the issue should be evaluated by the Court of Cassation, which could delay the trial for months. So, as some Paris pundits predict, a lot might happen before then. Or not.

This weekend a Basque ETA leader, one of four ETA suspects, was discovered in an operation by French police and the antiterrorist unit. This strikes home since Murder in Passy, my new book set in 1997, deals with the ETA and the Basque struggle. Even now they are still making headlines.
Arriola, alias 'Xarlas', the "new military chief of ETA," was arrested in a house where firearms and documents were seized.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Spanish authorities believe their campaign against ETA has crippled its operational capacity, with dozens of arrests, including a number of top leaders, made in co-operation with France.
ETA declared on January 10 a "permanent and general ceasefire" to be verified by the international community.
It was the first unilateral declaration of a permanent ceasefire in ETA's campaign of bombings and shootings for a homeland independent of Spain. But Spain's Prime Minister rejected the declaration, saying he wanted nothing less than ETA's dissolution, and the authorities have vowed to hunt down ETA members.ETA had announced a ceasefire in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine months later, it set off a bomb in the car park of Madrid's airport, killing two men.
There has been no attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.

Remember those jewels thieves in drag who robbed Harry Winston’s off the Champs Elysees a few Christmasses ago?
Part of the loot has been discovered in a sewer drain on the outskirts of Paris. Nineteen rings and three sets of earrings – one pair valued at €14 million were dug up from a drain hidden in a plastic container set in a cement mold inside the sewer. The bold Harry Winston jewel robbery on Dec. 5, 2008, netted the thieves – some dressed as women and wearing wigs – gems and bejewelled watches worth up to €85 million
The Harry Winston boutique is on a street off the Champs-Elysees Avenue dotted with fashion houses and cafés. The robbery, carried out while Christmas shoppers strolled outside, was among the most audacious in France in recent memory.

The heist's suspected mastermind, had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a drug trafficking case. On a tip, Police discovered stolen jewellery and €760,000 at his house. And in the drain.
A guard at the Harry Winston boutique put police on the trail of the suspects. When investigators learned that an Israeli was expected in Paris to buy some of the stolen jewels, police moved in to make the arrests.
Cara - Tuesday on the book tour


  1. In the US we hear very little about the Basques; I wager that there are few under 50 who heard about it in school. Geography back in the old days was a good thing.

    As to the Basques, I finished MURDER IN PASSY and it is another of those action packed, culturally current adventures of Aimee Leduc and her friends (or are they her enablers?).

    The review will be on my blog tomorrow, 3/16, and I am ready for the next episode of the rooftops or Paris.


  2. In my research for City of Silver, I learned of the bitter rivalry between the Basques and the other Spaniards in Potosi in The Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru in the 17th century. The factions fought a war there in 1624. This long historic enmity is not going to go away easily. As for Spain's position on the current ceasefire, intransigence is never a path to peace.

  3. Thank you Beth!
    Annamaria yes a complex, complicated issue and all the Basques I met and know hate violence and how this has torn the real issues from being met...Cara