French press review 24 October 2012
What is bunga-bunga and who's heard of it? Has Obama got his mojo back? How many French soldiers will be traumatised after serving in Afghanistan? And how much tax did tax exile Bernaurd Arnault's LVMH Finance pay on 60.5 million euros profit?
On its international pages Le Monde reports on recent testimony given by two Italian gentlemen, Mariano Apicella and Danilo Mariani, at the Milan tribunal which is trying Silvio Berlusconi, another Italian gentleman, on charges which include the abuse of power and inciting a minor to prostitution.
The judges asked what the first two gentlemen, frequent visitors to the third gentleman's home, might know about the practice known as "bunga-bunga", which allegedly involved lots of old businessmen more or less in suits surrounded by lots of young girls more or less in short skirts.
Hand on heart, Apicella and Mariani admitted that bunga-bunga was a mystery to them, that a typical evening chez Silvio was largely occupied by sober discussion of the geopolitical situation.
They said, yes, they did occasionally catch a glimpse of a scantily clad female . . . today's young people, ma dai! . . . but as for the suggestion that Berlusconi might have touched such people intimately, Apicella and Mariani said the only time the smiling host took his hands out of his pockets was when he welcomed some new guest to his humble 1,000-square-metre home.
Did the pair, a singer and a pianist by profession, ever meet Karima El-Mahroug, universally known as Ruby and tragically under age at the time of Berlusconi's alleged association with her.
"Perhaps once," sang Apicella, with an accompanying arpeggio of approval from Mariani.
In other words, invited to a soirée by Silvio, you could bring your wife and children. The local Catholic archbishop would feel completely at home. Even he could bring his wife and children.
Which is all very well as testimony. People tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Just ask Lance Armstrong.
But, this is where things get complicated.
Silvio Berlusconi recently bought an apartment from Apicella and a villa from Mariani.
He paid 310,000 euros for the five-room flat in Albano, near Rome, where Il Cavaliere already has his 1,000 square metres. Mariani's villa is near Siena in Tuscany.
The judges are suspicious. Silvio already has more than 20 places he can call home from the Caribbean to Lombardy. In March Berlusconi paid 20 million euros for a property worth an estimated 9.5 million from one Marcello del'Utri, a native of Palermo, suspected of having been Silvio's mediator with the Sicilian mafia. Asked why he had made the purchase, Silvio said it was to help an old friend who was having cash-flow difficulties.
And so to the front pages . . .
Le Monde looks back to the third US presidential debate and finds "Obama aggressive, Romney adrift" but the centrist paper says the race is still going to be decided by a handful of voters.
Catholic La Croix wonders how many of the French troops soon to return home from Afghanistan will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. American studies suggest that 20 per cent of those returning from battle zones will suffer some degree of psychological damage.
Communist L'Humanité is on the trail of certain rich French, those "parasites" who make a fortune in France but have escaped to Belgium to avoid certain inconvenient truths on this side of the border. It is interesting to note, as L'Humanité does, that LVMH Finance, a company owned by Bernard Arnault, a well-heeled heel who lives at No 3 rue Reine Astride, Brussels, and which company made profits of 60.5 million euros in 2009 paid exactly 453 euros in tax. It makes you think.