French 'Queen of Paparazzi' arrested over claim she paid witness

French ‘Queen of Paparazzi’ is arrested over claim she paid Amal Clooney’s uncle to drop allegations that ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy received Gaddafi cash

  • Mimi Marchand was taken into custody for questioning in Nanterre on Thursday
  • Was detained and had home searched over allegations of witness tampering 
  • In investigation of alleged corruption by former president Nicholas Sarkozy
  • Sarkozy had been accused of taking money from former Libyan dictator Gaddafi 

One of the most powerful figures in French medi, dubbed the ‘Queen of Paparazzi’, is under arrest over claims she paid Amal Clooney’s uncle to withdraw his claim that ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy had received campaign funds 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 had her home searched on the orders of magistrates investigating alleged corruption by Sarkozy.  

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, over allegations of witness tampering

Journalist Francois de Labarre was also taken into custody but was released without charge on Thursday evening.   

Marchand, known widely as ‘Mimi’, works closely with a host  of 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 organising an interview in November with one of the main witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine, 70, in which he withdrew his allegations against the former head of state. 

Sarkozy denies receiving funds from Gaddafi and said that ‘the truth is finally out’ after Takieddine, uncle to human rights lawyer Clooney, retracted his claim.

Afterwards, speaking to French investigators, Takieddine changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying that his words had been ‘deformed’. 

Marchand was detained and had her home searched on the orders of magistrates investigating alleged corruption by former French president Nicholas Sarkozy (pictured), who has been accused of taking money from former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi. He denies the charges

The investigative website Mediapart, which broke the news of Marchand and de Laberre’s detention, said the pair were suspected of ‘underground negotiations with Mr Takieddine’ in order to convince him to withdraw his allegations against Sarkozy. 

Under French law, this could be a criminal offence of witness tampering. 

Paris Match condemned the arrest of one of its journalists which it said was ‘contrary to all democratic principles’. 

Reporters Without Borders chief Christophe Deloire tweeted that it was ‘obviously disproportionate’ that five armed officers had banged on the door of a journalist in front of their small child and the arrest was part of a ‘deplorable legal process’. 

Before retracting his claims in the Paris Match interview, Takieddine had always alleged that he delivered suitcases stuffed with five million euros (around £4.3m) 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, were instrumental in organising an interview in November with one of the main witnesses against Sarkozy, Ziad Takieddine (pictured), 70, in which he withdrew his allegations against the former head of state

The arrests on Thursday are the latest twists in years of extraordinary claims and investigations against pugnacious right-winger Sarkozy, who served one term in office from 2007-2012. 

Marchand, prized for her ability to organise favourable press coverage and photographs, 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 influence-peddling and handed a three-year prison sentence for attempting to influence a judge to obtain information in a separate case. 

Most of the sentence was suspended and he is appealing, meaning he is unlikely to go to jail, but he faces other charges including in the cash-from-Libya case.   

Afterwards, speaking to French investigators, Takieddine, who is the uncle of Amal Clooney (pictured), changed his story again, retracting what he had told Paris Match and saying that his words had been ‘deformed’

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