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Tuesday, 07 April 2020

France intensifies crackdown on comic Dieudonne

AFP , Tuesday 28 Jan 2014
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France's crackdown on Dieudonne M'bala M'bala intensified on Tuesday with police raiding premises linked to the controversial comic as part of a probe into suspected fraud.

The raids were the latest in a series of judicial moves against a performer who has been widely accused of promoting anti-Semitism and has a string of convictions for hate speech.

Authorities are currently attempting to force Dieudonne to pay more than 65,000 euros ($90,000) in outstanding fines related to his convictions and suspect that the 47-year-old was planning to fraudulently declare himself bankrupt.

They are also investigating suspected money laundering and misuse of corporate assets. Investigators believe Dieudonne, whose father is from Cameroon, has illicitly moved 400,000 euros to the African country since 2009.

Investigators are also examining the purchase of one of Dieudonne's properties by a production company controlled by his partner, Noemie Montagne. The property had been put up for auction by the state after being seized in lieu of an outstanding tax bill of 900,000 euros.

Dieudonne hit the headlines last month when the government, which has branded him a "pedlar of hate", succeeded in preventing him from starting a nationwide tour of a new show, "The Wall", because of its perceived anti-Semitic content.

He has also generated controversy by popularising the quenelle, a trademark stiff-armed gesture that critics say is a disguised Nazi salute but he defends as a generic "up yours" to the French establishment.

Former France footballer Nicolas Anelka, a long-standing friend of Dieudonne, is currently facing disciplinary proceedings by the English Football Association for making the quenelle gesture after scoring for his club West Brom last month.

Anelka, a convert to Islam, insists there were no anti-Semitic overtures to his use of the gesture -- a stance echoed by many in France -- but is nevertheless widely expected to be banned by the English FA.

Some followers of Dieudonne have been photographed doing the quenelle at sites including Auschwitz, synagogues and outside a Jewish school in Toulouse where a rabbi and three children were shot dead by Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah in 2012.

Police said Wednesday they had arrested a man suspected of distributing images of another person doing the quenelle outside the Toulouse school and in front of the flat where Merah was shot dead by police after a siege.

The man, who is known locally as "Joe the Crow", is in custody and has had his computer seized as police attempt to identify the person who features on the provocative photographs.

Police said it had taken them several weeks to track down "Joe the Crow," and said they had run up against legal obstacles in trying to get the social networks where the pictures were published to hand over information about who had uploaded them.

Bailiffs who visited Dieudonne's home last week to demand payment of the outstanding fines have claimed they were assaulted and shot at with rubber bullets.

The comic was questioned by police over the alleged incident but subsequently released without charge pending further investigation. Dieudonne has filed a complaint over what he sees as an illegal entry into his property.

Separately from the fraud investigation, a Paris prosecutor has opened a probe into Dieudonne's appeal through his website and other Internet platforms for donations to help him pay his fines -- which is a crime in France punishable by a prison term of up to six months and a fine of up to 45,000 euros.

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