(Thomas Samson / AFP/Getty Images / October 7, 2013) Also By Kim Willsher October 7, 2013, 11:48 a.m. PARIS — French investigators have dropped criminal charges against former President Nicolas Sarkozy for allegedly soliciting illegal campaign funds from the country’s richest woman. The inquiry found insufficient evidence that Sarkozy had sought and accepted campaign money in 2007 from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt , 90, while she was in a frail mental state. Sarkozy won the 2007 presidential election . The unexpected decision on Monday, just two weeks after a court ruled the investigation could proceed, clears the way for Sarkozy, who had vehemently denied the accusations, to run for reelection in 2017. However, the charges — termed an abuse of weakness –were maintained against Eric Woerth, a former government minister who was Sarkozy’s treasurer in the 2007 campaign; Bettencourt’s former companion, the society photographer Francois-Marie Banier; her lawyer, Pascal Wilhelm; her financial advisor, Patrice de Maistre and six others. Their trial is expected to be held next year. The public prosecutor in Bordeaux, where the investigation is being conducted, had said the case against Sarkozy stood no chance of success, and threatened to appeal any decision to send the former president to trial, delaying the investigation against the other accused. The former president is still dogged by a number of other legal cases, including a scandal over millions of euros in public money paid in compensation to a controversial businessman and friend, Bernard Tapie. Sarkozy is also facing questions about the “Karachi Affair,” a complicated corruption case linked to arms sales and a bombing in Pakistan in 2002 that killed 11 French nationals. Before the May 2012 election campaign, Sarkozy had said that if he lost his bid for reelection, France would never hear of me again. He has maintained a reasonably low profile since his defeat by Socialist Francois Hollande , but he and his entourage have begun hinting of his return to the front line of French politics to save the country. Several members of the right-of-center opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, are said to be interested in running in 2017, but Sarkozy has emerged as the popular candidate to challenge Hollande. Last month, an opinion poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion found that 62% of UMP voters questioned wanted him to run in 2017, well ahead of any rivals in the party.
NAM Y. HUH AP Search local inventory, coupons and more Powered by By Ames Alexander firstname.lastname@example.org NASCAR chairman Brian France and his ex-wife have reached a confidential settlement in a big-dollar court fight that involved allegations of threats, broken promises and covert surveillance. Between 2001 and 2008, Brian and Megan France got married, got divorced, got married again, and got divorced again. Brian France is now remarried. The 2008 separation agreement stipulated that Brian France pay his ex-wife $9 million, alimony of $32,000 a month for 10 years and $10,000 a month in child support. Megan France contended that her ex-husband delayed monthly alimony payments and failed to make a $3 million installment promised under the separation agreement. In court files, France argued that he wasnt required to pay the $3 million because his wife breached the agreement. Last month, the two agreed to end their court dispute, their lawyers say. The parties have voluntarily dismissed all pending litigation and amicably resolved all existing disputes on confidential terms that are consistent with the best interests of their children and their respective families, John Stephenson, one of the lawyers representing Brian France, wrote in an email to the Observer. There will be no further public comment about these private matters. For years, much of the legal fight was hidden from the public because a judge sealed the France file. The Observer and news partner NBC Charlotte waged a lengthy court battle to open the file, finally winning in May . The news partners argued that France had no compelling interest that supersedes the publics right to open courts and files. The unsealed documents showed that Brian Frances assets totaled more than $550 million in 2005 and that NASCAR paid him more than $9 million in 2004. The records also shone light on a contentious divorce. Brian France hired private investigators to keep an eye on his wife, the documents show.
Brian and Megan France settle lengthy court fight
The product of a 2006 transatlantic merger aimed at creating a global giant, Alcatel-Lucent told a European works council meeting it intends to axe nearly one in seven of its employees. “Everyone knows this plan is the last chance. The company is in a very serious situation,” Chief Executive Michel Combes, the latest of three CEOs since the merger, told Le Monde newspaper. The group plans to focus on high-growth areas ranging from 4G mobile to high-speed broadband, and to lower fixed costs by more than 15 percent, saving a total of 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion). Including past measures, the total cost of the “shift plan” is 1.2 billion euros, an amount the company expects to fund through asset sales. Alcatel’s share price rose 2 percent after the news but closed down 4 percent at 2.71 euros as the government’s opposition to its plans intensified. The stock has almost tripled in value this year on buyers’ hopes that Combes, a former chief executive of Vodafone Europe, can rescue the business. “The group is eating up a lot of cash and is unable to enhance its profitability, so some kind of change was needed to make sure it has a long-term future,” said one Paris-based financial analyst who declined to be named. The group, which employs 72,000 staff worldwide and competes with larger rivals Ericsson of Sweden, China’s Huawei and Finland’s Nokia, has posted five straight quarters of net losses. Altogether, 4,100 posts will go in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, 3,800 in Asia Pacific, and 2,100 in the Americas. France’s CFDT union said it would fight a plan that entailed cuts to about 15,000 posts, although 5,000 new jobs will be created, giving the overall loss of 10,000. Nine hundred jobs would go in France, with the closure or disposal of five sites. “The CFDT is aware of the seriousness of the situation and deplores this,” it said in a statement. “But once again it is the staff that are paying the price …