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Monday, January 13, 2014

Hollande 'used Corsican mafia apartment for affair with actor'

The "Hollande affair" has taken an unexpectedly sinister turn with claims – and counter-claims – that the flat used for the president's alleged love tryst with an actor was linked to the Corsican mafia.

French media reported that the apartment where François Hollande met Julie Gayet was lent to her by a friend who was involved with two mobsters.

However, the friend, Emmanuelle Hauck, denied her ex-husband Michel Ferracci, who was given an 18-month suspended sentence in connection with money-laundering last November, had ever owned, rented or lived in the property and threatened to sue for defamation.

It was later revealed that after splitting from Ferracci, Hauck lived with François Masini, who was shot dead last May in an apparent gangland killing.

As the opposition lambasted Socialist Hollande for exposing the country to international ridicule, his official partner Valérie Trierweiler remained in hospital where she was due to be released on Monday after treatment for what one official described as "a severe case of the blues".

Meanwhile, Hollande is preparing for a key press conference on Tuesday in which he was expected to announce new goals and a timetable for reforms in front of 600 French and foreign journalists.

Jean-François Copé, president of the Union for a Popular Movement party, described the scandal as "disastrous for the image of the presidential role" while declaring his commitment to France's privacy laws.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported that Trierweiler, 48, is ready to forgive Hollande, and claimed that Hollande told his partner that Closer was making his alleged affair public just a few hours before the magazine hit the news stands.

Frédéric Gerschel, a journalist at Le Parisien who was reportedly in contact with Trierweiler, claimed that Hollande did not spare his girlfriend the details.

"He denied nothing, not the escapades on scooter with his bodyguard in the middle of the night, nor the frequency of the secret meetings, or the date when this "love affair" as the foreign press has baptised it, started several months previously," he wrote.

One of Trierweiler's friends told the paper: "The news hit Valérie like a TGV hitting the buffers. She was completely stunned.  Of course she had heard the rumours going around Paris for weeks, but she wanted to believe they were false.  To her, they [Trierweiler and Hollande] are still a couple".

Trierweiler was taken to hospital on Friday after Closer magazine published seven pages of pictures of Hollande visiting the apartment in Paris's chic 8th arrondissement and apparently staying overnight.

The magazine showed photographs of a man in a black helmet, alleged to be Hollande, being accompanied to and from the apartment by a bodyguard on a scooter on 30 and 31 December.

Hollande, 59, who is accompanied on official engagements by Trierweiler, reacted to the magazine's claims in a personal capacity with a threat to sue Closer on the grounds that it had invaded his privacy.

The article was removed from Closer's website following what the magazine described as a "very clear" legal injunction from Gayet's lawyers. Hollande has not denied the affair.

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