Pierre Péan, France’s best-known investigative journalist, told AAPA members that he had resorted a few years ago to writing about the French Revolution’s bloody campaigns against monarchist rebels in Brittany as a way to escape threats to himself and his family over his exposures of contemporary political and financial scandals.

At a well-attended meeting on Oct. 11 over evening drinks at the home of AAPA member John Morris, Péan discussed his career, his revelations and the unwelcome attention they have brought him.

The author of more than 30 books largely focused his remarks on the shady interactions of the rulers of France’s former African colonies and the French political elite via illicit funding of French political parties — a system summarized by the shorthand expression “Françafrique.”

He also described how his best-known book, Une jeunesse française : François Mitterrand, 1934-1947, describing, in 1994, the then-President’s wartime involvement with the Pétain regime of Vichy France was contradictorily interpreted as an attack on or as a justification of the most ambiguous phase of Mitterrand’s career.

At the request of members who brought along personal copies of his latest book, Péan ended the evening by dedicating La République des Mallettes (The Republic of Suitcases), alleging that the illegal funding of presidential campaigns based on kickbacks for French arms sales abroad and the delivery of suitcases full of cash from African leaders has continued to be an essential element of French politics. This charge has prompted a bitter controversy over conflicting revelations involving the immediate entourages of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

-Ronald Koven