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CRIME

Rape case against France’s interior minister is dropped

The Paris appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the dropping of a rape case against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, although his accuser said she would keep fighting to have it heard.

Rape case against France's interior minister is dropped
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Chief prosecutor Remy Heitz said the court had confirmed the abandonment of the case, originating from a 2017 complaint by Sophie Patterson-Spatz that Darmanin raped her in 2009.

Darmanin, 40, is high-flying figure on the right of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government who frequently talks tough on fighting illegal immigration and crime.

His appointment as Interior Minister – the nominal head of the police and judicial services – while under investigation for rape prompted furious protests from feminist groups when it was announced in 2020. 

“For the fifth time in almost six years, the justice system has found that no objectionable act can be imputed to Gérald Darmanin,” his lawyers Pierre-Olivier Sur and Mathias Chichportich said, adding that the minister “will make no further comment”.

“What a surprise,” Patterson-Spatz’s lawyer Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon wrote on Twitter, adding that her client would take her case to France’s top court, the Court of Cassation, and the European Court of Human Rights if she failed there.

Patterson-Spatz and her lawyers say Darmanin extorted sex from the plaintiff in exchange for intervening in a case against her when he worked in the legal service of the conservative UMP party – since renamed to Les Républicains.

Darmanin acknowledges having sex with Patterson-Spatz, but says it was consensual.

In 2021 an investigating magistrate said the case should be dropped, finding that Patterson-Spatz’s “sincerity… could not be doubted” but that she had “deliberately chosen to have sex with (Darmanin) in hopes of having her criminal case retried”.

“The law cannot be mixed up with morality,” the magistrate added, saying the plaintiff was “consenting in the eyes of the law”.

A second rape investigation against Darmanin, on suspicion he extorted sex from a woman in exchange for a job and an apartment, was dropped in 2018.

In his post since July 2020, Darmanin has sought to shore up relations with the police and also played a key role in talks with British counterparts seeking to limit the crossings of small boats across the Channel.

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CRIME

Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Frenchman Sebastien Raoult pleaded not guilty to cybercrimes Friday in Seattle federal court, two days after he was extradited from Morocco.

Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Federal Judge Michelle Peterson told the 21-year-old Raoult that he was charged with nine counts, including conspiracy, computer intrusion, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Raoult listened through an interpreter.

After Raoult’s plea of not guilty, the judge ordered him to be detained as a flight risk until a hearing April 3.

Moroccan authorities arrested Raoult at Rabat airport May 31 at the request of the US Department of Justice. Along with Raoult, two other French nationals were also arrested, Gabriel Bildstein, 23, and Abdel-Hakim El-Ahmadi, 22.

According to Raoult’s indictment, he and the other two men are alleged to have formed a hacking team, dubbed “ShinyHunters,” to steal confidential data from 60 companies to sell on the dark web where criminals routinely operate.

Some of the companies are located in the Seattle area.

According to experts, beginning in 2020, the hackers stole customer data from the Indonesian e-commerce site Tokopedia, the US clothing brand Bonobos, the US telecom AT&T and many other companies, putting the personal data for sale on the dark web.

The criminal charges carry a possible jail term of up to 27 years in prison.

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