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Montpellier in the spotlight: development mania in France’s fastest-growing city

This sun-kissed city has just become Frances seventh largest on the back of students, biotech … and a lively skanking scene

This compact, sun-kissed city of 275,000 people, located six miles inland from Frances Mediterranean coast, should be passing Strasbourg as the countrys seventh-biggest. Any time now.

Often overlooked for the bigger southern metropolises of Toulouse and Nice, and even Provenal tourist-draws such as Avignon and Arles, Montpellier has been the fastest growing French city over the last half-century, more than doubling in size from only 119,000 in 1962.

Growing pains

Spend five minutes on 18th-century plaza Place de la Comdie, and youll feel the livening effects of the citys massive student intake, who comprise up to one-third of residents. But for some people, the growth has been too abrupt.

My feeling is that the city has lost a bit of its soul, says Marie Laure Anselme-Martin, 70, from a local family going back four generations. There are very few Montpellirains with real roots only about 15% of the population now. You could put us all in the zoo.

The citys journey from poky provincial capital started in the 1960s, when it was first swollen by the influx of pieds-noir (Christian and Jewish people whose families had migrated from all parts of the Mediterranean to French Algeria) and Spanish exiles from Franco. Enter outspoken socialist mayor Georges Frche. This frank mayor once declared he would name the municipalitys cleaning-supplies room after Franois Mitterand: Un ptit president, une petite salle. (A small president, a small room.) His development programme including the love-it-or-hate-it neoclassical Antigone quarter, and later the Jean Nouvel-designed town hall, a kind of black Rubiks cube made Montpellier Frances urbanist laboratory. Montpellier took off with him, says Anselme-Martin, even though she stood in opposition to Frche as a municipal councillor. When he arrived, the city raised the bar very high.

City in numbers

300 Annual days of sunshine.

2,680 Species in the Jardin des Plantes, Frances oldest botanical gardens.

82 Points with which Montpellier HSC did a Leicester and unexpectedly won the French football championship in 2011-12 for the sole time in their history. (Theyre currently mid-table.)

37 Percentage of youth unemployment in the city testament to ongoing economic stagnation in the south, and Montpelliers reputation as a cushy beach-bum option.

and pictures

Theres a Lynchian frisson to Montpellier by night, according to photographer Yohann Gozard. His local nightscapes are currently showing at La Panace gallerys Retour sur Mulholland Drive exhibition.

#sunset #montpellier #france

A post shared by Laurena Stanos (@laurenastanos) on

History in 100 words

Unlike its illustrious neighbours, Montpellier has no Greek or Roman heritage. First mentioned in AD 985, it grew to prominence in the Middle Ages, thanks partly to a school of medicine that quickly became a European leader and is now the worlds oldest active medical faculty. Former pharmacist Anselme-Martin says Montpelliers research culture is one of its highlights: I bathed in it. Ive got lots of friends in the research world, theyre people I appreciate because theyre humble. Open-mindedness was key: in 1180, William VIII decreed that anyone, including Jews and Muslims, could practice in Montpellier though not apothecaries, as Nostradamus, expelled for being one, would learn. Today, the medico-botanical influence is still evident in the scores of biotech and agribusiness companies.

Montpellier in sound and vision

Profound late-career Truffaut or misogynist misstep, depending on who youre talking to, the great director let his wandering eye rove on Montpelliers streets for 1977s The Man Who Loved Women. Here is local directors Yann Sinics airborne tribute to the film.

The Meds little-known skanking outpost, Montpellier has a vibrant roots-reggae scene dating back to the late 1990s. Since 2010, record label Salomon Heritage has taken the reins broadcasting the Jamaican sound system tradition to the Languedoc and further afield.

Whats everyone talking about?

Surprisingly for a small city, Montpellier has ranked high in recent studies of Frances most congested places, rivalling Marseille and Paris. Its less surprising when you look at the thick tangle of arterial roads and exurban sprawl surrounding it. Cutting a 12km scar through the red loam to the south of the city since 2014, is the massive A9 building site currently the countrys largest motorway construction project, designed to siphon off all non-commuter traffic and reroute it southwards.

Whats next for the city?

With real-estate development sprouting up on every side, Montpelliers mayor, Philippe Saurel, is still fixated on showy flagship projects. The Belaroia (jewel in Occitan) is a new luxury hotel and apartments complex expected to be completed opposite central Gare St Roch at the end of 2018, where a fifth tram line a new axis linking villages to the north and southwest may intersect by 2025.

Then there is the flashy 55m LArbre Blanc tower, stylistically situated between Japan and the Mediterranean. Anselme-Martin has her doubts: These showcase buildings are they going to work? Can people afford this housing? Because Languedoc-Roussillon is nearly Frances poorest region. Not much work, a lot of unemployment.

There are certainly signs of development mania. The overarching Occitan region recently withdraw its share of funding for a new 135m out-of-town train station already under construction, after learning that only four TGVs a day will stop there on its initial opening in 2018.

With all this activity, one thing is sure: Nantes, Frances sixth biggest city with a population of about 285,000, is now in Montpelliers sights.

Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro)

Au tour de @montpellier_ davoir sa photo spatiale! Je crois bien avoir loup de peu la Grande-Motte et Palavas-les-Flots #Proxima pic.twitter.com/BpGbVAG2wr

January 30, 2017

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The lively but slightly-too-Saurel-friendly Gazette de Montpellier is the local Time Out. MontpellierCityCrunch is the buzziest events guide. The underground-orientated Jacker magazine is Montpelliers answer to the Beastie Boys Grand Royale.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/mar/13/montpellier-spotlight-development-mania-france-fastest-growing-city


Greek activists target sales of homes seized over bad debts

Protests thwart plans to hold around 25,000 auctions as banks struggle to sell properties to settle shortfalls

The cavernous halls of Athens central civil court are usually silent and sombre. But every Wednesday, between 4pm and 5pm, they are anything but. For it is then that activists converge on the building, bent on stopping the auctions of properties seized by banks to settle bad debts.

They do this with rowdy conviction, chanting not a single home in the hands of a banker, unfurling banners deploring vulture crows, and often physically preventing notaries and other court officials from sitting at the judges presiding bench.

Poor people cant afford lawyers, rich people can, says Ilias Papadopoulos, a 33-year-old tax accountant who feels so strongly that he has been turning up at the court to orchestrate the protests with his eye surgeon brother, Leonidas, for the past three years.

We are here to protect the little man who has been hit by unemployment, hit by poverty and cannot keep up with mortgage payments. Banks have already been recapitalised. Now they want to suck the blood of the people.

The tall, bearded brothers were founding members of Den Plirono, an activist group that emerged in the early years of Greeces economic crisis in opposition over road tolls. The organisation, which sees itself as a peoples movement, then moved into the power business restoring the disconnected electricity supplies of more than 5,000 Greeks who could not afford to pay their bills. Auctions are their latest cause. Solidarity is the only answer, Papadopoulos insists.

Rich people have political influence. They can negotiate their loans and are never in danger of actually losing the roof over their heads.

The protests have been highly effective. In law courts across Greece, similar scenes have ensured that auctions have been thwarted. Activists estimate that only a fraction of auctions of 800 homes and small business enterprises due to go under the hammer since January have actually taken place. Under pressure to strengthen the countrys fragile banking system, Athens leftist-led government has agreed to move ahead with around 25,000 auctions this year and next. In recent weeks they have more than doubled, testimony, activists say, to the relaxation of laws protecting defaulters.

There is not a Greek who does not owe to the banks, social security funds or tax office, says Evangelia Haralambus, a lawyer representing several debtors. Do you know what it is like to wake up every morning knowing that you cant make ends meet, that you might lose your home? It makes you sick.

Seated in the fourth floor office of the United Popular Front (Epam), a framed picture of Che Guevara behind her, the lawyer belongs to the growing numbers who believe Greece would be better off out of the eurozone.

We see our country as a country under occupation. It is inadmissible what has happened to Greece, she splutters. These vulture crows, homing in on the properties of the poor, are all part of the larger plan to control us.

Epam is among the fringe groups on both the left and right seeking to capitalise on the outrage over auctions as anti-euro sentiment mounts.

Few issues have highlighted prime minister Alexis Tsipras volte-face over austerity more than this. Resistance to home foreclosures was a rallying cry of the leftist leader before he assumed power in January 2015.

Tsipras decision to enforce some of the harshest austerity measures to date the price of a third bailout programme to avert default and debt-stricken Greece exiting the eurozone has exacted a heavy toll. Amid accusations of betrayal, his own popularity and that of his Syriza party, have plummeted.

The leaders much-vaunted promise that not a single home would be seized from Greeks unable to keep up with mortgage payments has become the stuff of satire played on radio shows to emphasise what is widely perceived as Tsipras hypocrisy.

But seven years into the crisis, any government would ignore non-performing loans (which will never be repaid, in full or at all) at its peril. A slowburning 106bn fuse under the Greek economy the equivalent of 50% of GDP they are regarded as the biggest risk to the banking systems stability. Some 41.3% of mortgage holders are estimated to have defaulted on loans.

Non-performing loans now account for 45% of all loans which is very high, said the Bank of Greeces governor Yannis Stournaras. It is imperative for the survival of Greek banks and the Greek economy that they are reduced. Our plans is to reduce them by about 40bn in the next three years, he added, blaming the weekly court dramas, squarely, on strategic defaulters. There are strict income criteria and property criteria that protect the poor.

In an atmosphere that has become increasingly explosive, as anti-austerity protesters again take to the streets , the anti-auction activism has also turned ugly.

Attacks against public notaries who are processing the sales have soared. Recently the downtown office of a prominent notary was ransacked by masked men belonging to an anti-establishment group who said they wanted to send a message to the crows. In court the officials are abused and booed out of the room by baying crowds.

We have been wrongly singled out, said notary Athina Karamanlis, struggling to speak above the din of protesters taunting her.

Our association has stated clearly that it will not condone the auction of primary residences. But it is our duty to follow the law. There are auctions that people want for all sorts of reasons.

The drama has forced the government to rethink its strategy. Fears are mounting that if the banks fail to recover losses, a Cypriot-style bail-in could follow and the government has announced that it will pushed ahead with electronic auctions. But the prospect of mass auctions at a click of a button has only incensed critics further.

It will create huge tensions and destabilise Greek society, said Papadopoulos, claiming that laws protecting the poor had been increasingly whittled down. They will have to evict people from their homes and that wont be easy. The people will react in unforeseeable ways.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/11/greek-activists-target-sales-of-homes-seized-over-bad-debts


Deutsche Bank fined $630m over Russia money laundering claims

Authorities in US and UK issue fine after saying bank used offices in Moscow and London to move $10bn out of country

Deutsche Bank has been fined more than $630m (506m) for failing to prevent $10bn of Russian money laundering and exposing the UK financial system to the risk of financial crime.

The UKs Financial Conduct Authority imposed its largest ever fine 163m for potential money laundering offences on Germanys biggest bank, which it said had missed several opportunities to clamp down on the activities of its Russian operations as a result of weak systems to detect financial crime between 2012 and 2015.

A US regulator, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), also fined the bank $425m as it listed problems at Deutsche including one senior compliance officer stating he had to beg, borrow, and steal to get the resources to combat money laundering. As part of the settlement, the DFS has imposed a monitor, who will police the behaviour inside the bank for two years.

The latest run-in with regulators comes as Deutsches chief executive, John Cryan, tries to clean up the bank. Last month it paid $7.2bn to settle a decade-old toxic bond mis-selling scandal with the US Department of Justice .

The German bank admitted that the investigations into its Russian operations over so-called mirror trades had not yet finished. It said it was cooperating with other regulators and law enforcement authorities. The DoJ is reported to be among them.

Deutsches share price has been extremely volatile in recent months over concerns about the banks ability to pay fines, at one point dipping to less than 11 last autumn . Its share price before the financial crash was 117.

As the latest penalties were announced, the shares fell by 0.5% to 18.52 valuing the bank at 25bn, which is less than half that of the UKs Lloyds Banking Group, for example.

In a memo to staff Karl von Rohr, chief administrative officer of Deutsche,said: We deeply regret the banks role in the issues cited. He added that the number of staff employed to fight crime had risen 30% in 2016 and now stood at 700. Another 450 will be hired this year.

The FCA said Deutsches anti-money laundering (AML) controls were not tough enough to stop the bank being used by unidentified customers to transfer approximately $10bn from Russia to offshore bank accounts in a manner that is highly suggestive of financial crime. Money was moved via Deutsche Bank in the UK, to obank accounts overseas, including onesin Cyprus, Estonia, and Latvia, the FCA said.

Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the regulator, said: Financial crime is a risk to the UK financial system. Deutsche Bank was obliged to establish and maintain an effective AML control framework. By failing to do so, Deutsche Bank put itself at risk of being used to facilitate financial crime and exposed the UK to the risk of financial crime.

The size of the fine reflects the seriousness of Deutsche Banks failings. We have repeatedly told firms how to comply with our AML requirements and the failings of Deutsche Bank are simply unacceptable. Other firms should take notice of todays fine and look again at their own AML procedures to ensure they do not face similar action.

The penalties relate to the bank failing to obtain information about its customers involved in mirror trades ones which mirror each other and have no economic purpose which allowed Deutsche Banks Russia-based subsidiary (DB Moscow) to execute more than 2,400 pairs of trades between April 2012 and October 2014.

Shares in major Russian companies were paid for in roubles through the Moscow office and then the same stock would be sold through London, sometimes on the same day, for a related customer, the New York regulator said. The sellers were registered in offshore locations and received payment for the shares in dollars. A dozen entities were identified.

The FCA said the purpose of $6bn mirror trades was the conversion of roubles into US dollars and the covert transfer of those funds out of Russia, which is highly suggestive of financial crime.

The regulators found almost $3bn in 3,400 suspiciousone-sided trades also occurred. The FCA believes that some, if not all, of these formed one side of mirror trades. They were often conducted by the same customers involved in the mirror trading.

This Russian mirror-trading scheme occurred while the bank was on clear notice of serious and widespread compliance issues dating back a decade. The offsetting trades here lacked economic purpose and could have been used to facilitate money laundering or enable other illicit conduct, and todays action sends a clear message that DFS will not tolerate such conduct, said New Yorks financial services superintendent, Maria Vullo.

The FCA described Deutsche Bank as being exceptionally cooperative and having committed to solve the problems in its AML systems. The bank received a 30% discount for its cooperation. This is a contrast to 2015 when the bank was fined for rigging Libor and accused of being obstructive towards regulators in their investigations into the global manipulation of the benchmark rate.

Last year, Deutsche said, it had taken disciplinary measures with regards to certain individuals in this matter and will continue to do so with respect to others as warranted.

Five previous Deutsche fines

January 2017 500m for Russian money-laundering offences.

January 2017 75m to resolve a US government lawsuit over hiding tax liabilities to the Internal Revenue Service in 2000.

December 2016 5.9bn for toxic bond mis-selling scandal.

November 2015 200m for breaching US sanctions with Iran and Syria.

April 2015 1.7bn for rigging Libor.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/31/deutsche-bank-fined-630m-over-russia-money-laundering-claims


Will New York get a Brexit boost to cancel out feared ‘Trump slump’?

While European cities led by Paris and Frankfurt wage campaigns for Londons financial business, some experts predict New York could benefit most of all from the fallout of Brexit on the UK capital

New York and London function as two prongs of one global economy. Banks and other financial companies headquartered in New York usually have their second biggest offices in the British capital, and vice versa.

For years, thats made economic sense. For London-based companies, New York provides an unparalleled density of financial firms, a regulatory framework in which to do business, and access to non-European markets. London provides much of the same for New York-based companies who need access to European markets.

Unfortunately for London, at least Brexit could change all of that: an isolated UK could mean financial firms would have a hard time accessing and doing business with other European markets. And while several EU rivals, from Frankfurt to Paris to Madrid to Amsterdam, are waging campaigns for Londons financial businesses, New York with its already established financial sector and finance-friendly regulatory environment could get the majority of Brexits financial runoff, according to some experts.

And this has New Yorkers bracing for a wave of British capital that could affect not only the financial industry but the entire city, from cultural production to housing.

People financial people, consultants, bankers already started calling looking for apartments two or three months ago, says Gennady Perepada, a real estate consultant who specialises in helping foreign millionaires and billionaires buy apartments in New York. Any problem thats not in New York is good for New York.

London and New Yorks financial industry rivalry goes back decades, and the two cities jockey for the title of biggest financial centre each year. According to Z/Yen, a London-based business think tank, London currently outranks New York by just one point on their scale. The next financial centre, Singapore, is 42 points behind New York.

The
The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In other words, New York and London stand alone as centres for global finance, far ahead of the competition. Thats for a few simple reasons: both have a tremendous density of talent, they house large groups of ancillary financial service professionals lawyers, accountants, consultants and, most importantly, their clearing houses (the places where investors and sellers can trade in complex financial instruments) are the worlds most developed, meaning London and New York are the only places where all of the worlds major currencies can be traded.

The UK has over one million people employed in finance, says Vincenzo Scarpetta, a senior policy analyst at the think tank Open Europe. The whole city of Frankfurt, by comparison, has 725,000 inhabitants. So there are only a few global centres where the industry can really go.

Indeed, New York is such an obvious choice for capital fleeing from London post-Brexit that it seems, unlike other European cities, it hasnt had to move a finger to convince British investors to consider taking the leap.

Ive talked to CEOs who are being heavily wooed by Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt. Theyve sent out delegations, had formal presentations, says Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, which represents and lobbies for the financial industry and other corporations here. Is New York doing anything similar? No.

Wylde and others say its because New York already has more immediate advantages: a larger talent pool than any of those cities plus more English speakers, and a pre-existing regulatory system for complex financial transactions such as derivatives.

But its also because any benefit for New York will take a while to materialise, so theres no rush to woo financial firms. Wylde envisions a slow bleed from Britain, not a flood: the majority of jobs in financial services are mid-level jobs, she points out, and the expensiveness of New York makes it unlikely companies would uproot their support and administrative staff for its shores.

Anti
Rents have already skyrocketed in New York. Photograph: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Instead, she says, headquarters of financial institutions that need to attract top international talent would be the ones relocating but slowly. These are long-term implications that really depend on how Brexit shakes out.

In New York, however, nearly every industry is tied into finance, and the industries most closely associated with it such as real estate are already feeling impacts post-Brexit, albeit at a low level.

Money-seeking New York or London will now fall in New York instead, says Will Silverman, managing director of investment sales at Hodges Ward Elliott, a commercial real estate investment firm based in London which recently opened offices in New York. But its probably actually less impactful than people thought it would be, especially if Brexit takes forever, and is walked back at all.

Still, some New Yorkers are worried about what global market fluctuations will do to the city. New Yorks theatre scene, for example, is heavily reliant on British and other foreign capital.

Whenever theres a global event, investors and consumers freeze up and stop reaching for their wallets, says Ken Davenport, a long-time Broadway producer. But there hasnt been a freeze yet, and he says that even with Brexit, people need to be entertained, so hes not too worried.

Im more worried about what Brexit will do to the West End than to Broadway, he adds.

The biggest concern, it seems, comes from New Yorks most vulnerable, who have been increasingly destabilised by the citys globalised economy. Rents in New York have skyrocketed in the last decade, and that means any new wave of capital fleeing Britain and entering New York could put further pressure on previously poor neighbourhoods already feeling a housing crunch, leading to even more evictions and rent increases.

In Brooklyn for example, many condo projects rely on billions of dollars from foreign investors seeking to place their money in economies more stable than those of their home countries. If the UKs economy destabilises because of Brexit, there could be even more capital finding its way into buildings in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

A lot of the rent-stabilised buildings here are being bought up by foreign investors, says Imani Henry, an anti-gentrification activist in the Flatbush neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Theyre being wooed with citizenship and tax breaks, and meanwhile we have entire blocks of businesses closing because of high rents.

Ironically, for those nervous about the effects of Brexit, Donald Trump may yet prove their saving grace. His election as the 45th US president may destabilise its economy enough to overwhelm any effect that capital from the UK could have on New York.

If the UK has excluded itself from the world economy, New York will gain. That was my first thought, until Trump was elected, says Richard Florida, director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. Trump is worse for the global economy than Brexit, so they kind of balance each other out.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jan/24/new-york-brexit-boost-trump-slump-fears-financial-business


French trial reveals vast wealth of Equatorial Guinean president’s son

Teodorin Obiang, accused of plundering $115m, owns luxury properties, yachts, cars and Michael Jacksons crystal glove

The days of the Bugattis, the chateau Ptrus and the fine Parisian restaurants may be over for Teodorin Obiang at least in western Europe.

The son of Equatorial Guineas leader is due to go on trial for corruption and money laundering in a landmark case in France.

Obiang, the 47-year-old vice-president of the oil-rich but impoverished African country, faces an array of legal cases across Europe as authorities on the continent investigate the sources of his vast wealth and uncover new and even more extravagant ways that he spent some of it.

US officials have already forced Obiang to forfeit property after accusing him of shamelessly looting his country. In a settlement, Obiang agreed to hand over more than $30m (24.5m) worth of properties, including a vast villa in Malibu, California, and a dozen luxury cars.

Obiang, however, managed to keep his $38m private jet and collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, which includes a crystal-studded glove.

Two
Two Ferraris belonging to Teodorin Obiang are towed off the freight zone by police at Geneva airport. Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

In Europe, Dutch, Swiss and French authorities have seized property including Obiangs 76-metre yacht, the Ebony Shine, and a mansion in Paris estimated to be worth $200m.

The mansion includes a cinema, spa, hair salon and sports room. Bathroom taps were covered in gold leaf while original paintings by Degas and Renoir hung on the walls.

Cars seized in Geneva included a Swedish-manufactured vehicle worth $2.8m and a $2m Bugatti Veyron.

French prosecutors allege that Obiang plundered nearly $115m between 2004-11 when he was agriculture minister for his father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979.

The post gave Obiang control over the lucrative timber industry. Proceeds from a so-called revolutionary tax imposed on wood sales was transferred to his personal accounts, prosecutors allege.

In court on Monday, one of Obiangs lawyers asked for the trial be suspended on the grounds that his client had not been given enough time to properly prepare his defence, having been summoned to trial just three weeks ago.
Were not talking about a moped theft charge, Emmanuel Marsigny told Reuters.

The trial marks a major shift for France, which has long turned a blind eye to corrupt African dictators buying Parisian real estate, enjoying spending sprees in the capital or on the Cote dAzur, or simply fleeing to the country when in difficulty.

The policy was seen as part of a wider attempt by France to maintain influence in former colonies, but also in Africa. Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish colony.

A
A crystal glove worn by Michael Jackson at the 1983 Grammy awards. Photograph: EPA

The change is in part due to evolving popular and political values, greater media scrutiny at home and abroad, and nearly a decade of lobbying by anti-corruption campaigners.

In the beginning, there was simply no political will in France to listen to us, wrote one of the campaigners, William Bourdon from the Sherpa group, in September.

The move by Swiss authorities also indicates a tougher stance, observers say.

Obiang is expected to plead not guilty in the Paris court to charges of laundering the proceeds of corruption, embezzlement and misuse of public funds.

He has always said he earned the money legally in his country, Marsigny told Agence France-Presse news agency.

The defendant, who has failed with previous legal efforts to stop the trial, is not expected to attend or serve any sentence if he is convicted.

Campaigners say the case will set an important precedent and has cost Obiangs father diplomatic capital in the region.

Now the longest-serving African ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo made his son vice-president in June just after being re-elected with his usual score of more than 90% of votes cast.

Born in 1969, Obiang was 10 when his father overthrew his bloodthirsty uncle, the dictator Francisco Macas Nguema. He has denied all wrongdoing and, during one of his appeals against the French trial, a lawyer acting for the French government said his client had a compulsive need to buy.

Obiang is known to have bought a crystal-covered glove worn by Michael Jackson during his Bad tour, which is worth hundreds of thousands of euros. Its whereabouts are unclear.

The US justice department said he embarked on a corruption-fuelled spending spree in the United States after racking up $300m through embezzlement, extortion and money laundering.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/02/french-trial-teodorin-obiang-wealth-equatorial-guinea


Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse agree multi-billion-dollar settlements with US

Banks to pay out for mis-selling mortgage securities, as Department of Justice launches legal action against Barclays

The US Department of Justice has extracted $12.5bn in settlements from Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse for a decade-old toxic bond mis-selling scandal. It has also started legal proceedings against Barclays, which, in an unprecedented move, has refused to settle with the authorities.

Deutsche, Germanys biggest bank, will pay $7.2bn (5.9bn) to the DoJ. The sum is considerably less than the $14bn originally demanded. Credit Suisse has agreed to pay $5.3bn. Both settlements relate to the complex packaging of home loans, which was a lucrative business for the banking industry until the 2008 crisis.

The DoJ did not disclose the size of penalty it wanted to levy on Barclays, but it is understood to be $4bn. It accused the bank of plainly irresponsible and dishonest conduct.

The flurry of announcements just hours before the markets closed for the Christmas holiday came weeks before Donald Trump takes over as US president and follows months of negotiation between the banks and the DoJ, led by the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

The scandal dates back to 2005 and 2007, when banks packaged up home loans and used them to help create bonds known as residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) which were sold to investors. The mortgage repayments made by borrowers then provided a yield to the investor, so long as the borrower kept paying. The schemes fell apart when loans were made to borrowers who were unable to repay.

The penalties are part of Barack Obamas efforts to hold banks accountable, and the first major agreements to be reached with non-US banks. JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citi have all been punished already.

There are further penalties to come, notably for Royal Bank of Scotland. The bank could face a bill of as much as 9bn, analysts have said. Its shares rose 1% on hopes that it might soon be able to reach a settlement with the DoJ which it had hoped would take place this year or at least start to estimate its own bill.

Deutsche shares, which initially jumped 4%, ended almost 1% higher. Credit Suisse and Barclays slipped 1% in thin pre-holiday trading.

Barclays
Barclays Capital Bank building near Times Square in New York. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Under the settlement, Deutsche will pay $3.1bn and provide $4.1bn in customer relief, such as loan modifications and other assistance to homeowners and borrowers, spread over five years. Credit Suisse will pay $2.5bn and compensation of $2.8 bn over five years.

Much of the focus was on Deutsche, run by Briton John Cryan, which had been contesting the authorities original $14bn fine. When that news first leaked, its shares plunged to 31-year lows over fears about its ability to withstand such a high bill.

There had been fears that Deutsche would need to embark on a cash call or even ask the German government for assistance, but the fact that $4.1bn of its payout for customer relief was not a lump sum helped soothe some of the anxiety.

A key area of concern has been removed, analysts at Goldman Sachs said, noting that the $1.2bn hit Deutsche would take in its fourth quarter was towards the lower end of market expectations.

Some analysts said Deutsche would need to press on with its restructuring to avoid a cash call. Positively, the deal is settled and out of the way, as it was thought that the issue could drag on into 2017, said Thomas Kinmonth, an analyst at ABN Amro, who added that without restructuring a cash call would have to be undertaken before 2019.

Deutsches shares have been pummelled on stock markets during 2016 over fears about its financial position. It had already set aside billions of euros in anticipation of the fine.

Barclays is the first bank to fail to reach a settlement and now faces lengthy court proceedings in New York to defend itself against claims it said were disconnected from the facts.

Two of its executives, Paul Menefee and John Carroll, are named by the DoJ. Crowell & Moring partner Glen McGorty, representing Carroll, said he would challenge these ill-conceived and baseless allegations, and expects to be fully vindicated.

The DoJ did not comment on the announcements by Deutsche and Credit Suisse, but as it filed legal papers against Barclays, Lynch said: As alleged in this complaint, Barclays jeopardised billions of dollars of wealth through practices that were plainly irresponsible and dishonest. With this filing, we are sending a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate the defrauding of investors and the American people.

Where the money will go

The precise detail of the $6.9bn in customer relief, or redress, that Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse will have to pay for their misdemeanours is yet to be finalised with the DoJ. The schemes, however, are likely to match those agreed with other banks for the mis-selling of residential mortgage bond securities..

Goldman Sachs agreed in April to pay $1.8bn in consumer relief as part of its $5bn settlement. This was described as writing off loans for underwater homeowners and distressed borrowers and making other payments for construction, rehabilitation and preservation of affordable housing. It also had to provide cash to support debt restructuring, to prevent foreclosure, and to back housing quality improvement programmes. Goldman was also told to put $240m into community projects to finance affordable homes for rent and sale.

The DoJ typically deploys monitors, lawyers or housing experts to police the terms of the customer relief. The banks involved in the DoJ settlements do not necessarily have direct relationships with the homeowners, but have packaged up their loans to back the bonds.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/23/deutsche-bank-credit-suisse-us-mortgage-securities-barclays


Five Star Movement strips Rome mayor of ‘important decisions’

Beppe Grillos populist party acts swiftly after one of Virginia Raggis close advisers was arrested for suspected corruption

The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has been stripped by her populist Five Star Movement (M5S) party of the power to make important decisions after a close adviser was arrested for suspected corruption.

M5S prides itself on being scrupulously ethical and having no links to what it sees as the sleazy ways of Italian politics, so the scandal has prompted a swift response.

Starting today we change gears, we must fix the errors and leave no room for doubt, the M5S leader, Beppe Grillo, wrote on his blog.

Rome will continue with Virginia Raggi, Five Star mayor. Mistakes were made, and Virginia Raggi has admitted them. She trusted the least trustworthy people in the world, he added.

Grillo had warned Raggi the day before that important decisions, like nominations should now be endorsed by party leadership.

The arrest on Friday of Raffaele Marra, Rome city halls head of personnel, seen as part of Raggis inner circle, prompted a serious warning from Grillo.

Media reports on Sunday said he had even considered booting her from the party before reconsidering. Raggi also bowed to party pressure to force out two other advisers Daniele Frongia and Salvatore Romeo who were close to Marra.

Marra is suspected of accepting an illegal payment from a real estate developer in 2013 while he was head of housing policy under the former Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno.

After resignations and cancelled appointments, Raggis team is still not complete six months after she was voted in, which has been seized on by the lawyers rivals, who say she is not up to the job.

She faces a tough task in trying to turn around a city grappling with the legacy of years of corruption and mismanagement: potholed roads, failing refuse services and inadequate public transport.

The Rome experience has also exposed what some see as Grillos controlling role in the party he founded only five years ago.

The Democratic party meanwhile suffered a setback of its own when its high-profile mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, stepped down temporarily after being informed he was under investigation in connection with his previous job as the organiser of the 2015 World Expo fair in the city.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/18/five-star-movement-strips-rome-mayor-of-important-decisions


The French Ideologues Who Inspired the Alt-Right

Elderly Frenchmen Alain de Benoist and Guillaume Faye are far from household names in Europe and the U.S. But their ideas have fueled white nationalism across both continents.”>

NICE, FranceAlain de Benoist is the prolific and quintessentially Gallic icon of Frances New Right, the political and philosophical school of thought that formed in Nice in January 1968and somehow wound up as a principal inspiration for Americas alt-right.

Benoist, 72, and Guillaume Faye, 67, another key figure in the often-controversial Nouvelle Droite who later broke with Benoist, are far from household names in Europe or the United States. But references to these two elderly French intellectuals pop up regularly in the alt-right and pro-Donald Trump forums on Reddit and 4chan. Their work is reviewed and promoted by many key white nationalists in the U.S., including Richard Spencer and Greg Johnson.

Ideas cribbed from the New Right, which peaked in the 1970s, are also part of the engine fueling the rapid rise of the extreme right in Europe, including the brand-new, anti-immigration National Party in Ireland, whose first meeting at a five-star hotel in Dublin was canceled this week after a public outcry.

In particular, Fayes Why We Fighta call to whites to unite against the colonization of Europe by non-whiteshas become the literary cri de coeur for right-wing nationalists all over the world, from 65-year-old Jared Taylor, the founder and editor of the white-supremacist American Renaissance magazine, to a young Swedish man called The Golden One who has thousands of followers on YouTube, to a 28-year-old Paris-based porn star-turned-alt-right goddess named Electre.

Earlier this year, Benoist and Faye were cited as dangerous influences by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside Rush Limbaugh and the Ku Klux Klan, after Breitbart News published a video made by members of the European anti-immigrant Identitarian youth movement.

The Identitarians formed in France in 2002 before spreading throughout Europeand they also cite Frances New Right as inspiration. Breitbart News calls them right-wing hipsters, and they champion Donald Trump as much as they do far-right politicians all over Europe, especially Frances Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

Benoist could have hardly imagined that one day hed help lead the charge against cuckservatives the world over.

Reached at his home in Paris this week, he laughed and then started coughing when asked if he ever envisioned that the ideas contained in his more than 100 bookssuch as Manifesto for a European Renaissance or On Being a Paganand his more than 2,000 articles could ever be linked with the real-estate developer soon to occupy the White House and his consigliere, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News.

Monsieur Trump? said Benoist. I know him only by reputation. Monsieur Bannon, non. I know nothing of their milieu and I find it hard to believe they know much about mine.

Benoists history with the New Right is as complicated as the movement itself, which was labeled racist and fascist in its early years but was more rooted in populist ultranationalism and opposed to multiculturalism, immigration, and the idea of the American melting pot forced on European culture than anything else.

The New Right grew out of the think tank called GRECE, formed in Nice, and was largely an academic pursuit into the early to mid-1970s, when it morphed into a set of ideals that led to various nationalist parties like Frances National Front.

Benoist, once the culture editor at Le Figaro, told The Daily Beast he feels some of the alt-right is white supremacist but rejects that label himself, and indeed he has written extensively against racism. Hes also long been opposed to the National Front, though many others in the New Right have been allied with it. He considers Faye, long the bad cop to Benoists good cop in the Nouvelle Droite, to be an extremist.

Yet while Benoist claims to know little about the alt-right, he and Faye have appeared at white-nationalist conferences in the U.S., including Jared Taylors annual American Renaissance conference.

Greg Johnson, who runs the Counter-Currents website, and other white nationalists told The Daily Beast theyve met de Benoist at conferences in the U.S. and Europe, and have communicated with him over the years while overseeing translations of his books. Yet Benoist said their names were barely familiar to him.

The French New Right has been a big influence on me and the alt-right, Johnson told The Daily Beast. Benoist and Faye come up with great stuff. Europes being colonized by Islam. They replicate their forms of society within our forms of society, and the end result is that we will lose our homelands. Faye tries to understand why people wont defend their own. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the French were more concerned with Islamophobia than with those who were massacred for their opinions.

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Benoist and Faye owe one white nationalist in particular for the spread of their work outside the French-speaking world.

Daniel Friberg, 38, a Swedish-born former mining executive, began Arktos, now the biggest alt-right publishing company in the world, seven years ago. Friberg grew up happily in a small, homogenous town in Sweden with what he said were leftist liberal parents. All that changed, he said, when at 13 he went to junior high school, where there were many immigrant students, part of the first wave of the large-scale immigration that began in Sweden in the mid-1980s.

I had been taught to think multiculturalism was great until I experienced it, Friberg told The Daily Beast. But the reality was a culture shock. The media and everyone else told me that it was all good. It was a rude awakening. It wasnt good. There was a lot of chaos, crime, drugs, bringing guns to school, you name it.

Feeling hed been lied to by everyone and wanting to understand this transformation Sweden was undergoing, Friberg started reading political-science books voraciously, in particular Benoist and Faye. Even though Friberg had only a schoolboy knowledge of French, he understood the texts.

The French New Right books were the first I read, and they were an eye-opener for me, Friberg said. I couldnt find anything in them I disagreed with.

In 2009 Friberg left his day job to start Arktos and Right On, a blog for the alt-right. One of the first things he did was approach Benoist and Faye, and buy the rights to publish their most popular books in Englishand later other languages.

Weve red-pilled people all over the world, even China and India, with these books, Friberg said, using the term favored by the alt-right to describe the process of turning others on to their ideas. Many of our customers are surprisingly young and surprisingly well-educated. Many are former leftists who as we like to say [are] former members of the regressive left. A lot are disenfranchised libertarians.

Friberg has written his own book, The Real Right Returns, and like pretty much everyone in the alt-right universe, he is thrilled with Trumps election.

Wed be growing with or without him, Friberg said. But now its clear. Right-wing populism is here to stay.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/05/the-french-ideologues-who-inspired-the-alt-right.html


Elena Ferrante and the trouble with anonymity

The supposed exposure of the much-feted novelists true identity has caused a lot of outrage this week. From Jane Austen to Banksy, countless artists have tried to stay in the shadows, but it only makes people want to know more

Some all-too-anonymous writers will look at this weeks exposure of the millionaire literary superstar Elena Ferrante and find that sympathy does not come out of them without a fight. Others will see a private artists freedom ruined for ever and weep for her. For writers, thats the trouble with being anonymous. It is difficult to be the right amount.

To bring you up to speed: Elena Ferrante is the nom de plume of an Italian writer (or at least a writer of Italian) whose true identity has been a mystery since her (or his) first novel, Troubling Love, was published in 1991. Until recently the mystery was confined to Italy, where various writers, translators and publishers have been proposed as possible Ferrantes. In the past three years, however, she has become a mythic figure all over the world following the success her Neapolitan novels, about two clever women who grow up poor in postwar Naples.

Then, last Sunday, the Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti published a new theory. By studying public real estate records, he found that a couple connected to Ferrantes Italian publisher, Edizione E/O, had bought an expensive apartment in Rome in 2000, then another one this summer. Gatti also has documents from an anonymous source that he says show inexplicably large payments from the publisher to one member of the couple, more or less at the time you would expect Ferrante to be getting her big international royalties, and more or less in the right proportions as her sales increased. No one so far has seriously suggested he is wrong. No one likes him, either.

Two
A mythic figure Two of Elena Ferrantes Neopolitan novels on sale in a bookshop in Rome. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

You will have noticed that I have not named the person Gatti identifies. In many interviews by email, Ferrante has said that being anonymous is crucial to her writing. I have gained a space of my own, she told Vanity Fair last August, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful. If so, then Gatti may have strangled any future Ferrante novels, a serious crime if you admire her work. At the very least, he has probably made her suffer.

In August 2006, when the Sunday Times was about to expose Zoe Margolis as the Girl With a One-Track Mind, whose explicit blogs about her sex life had attracted tens of thousands of readers every day, their acting news editor, Nicholas Hellen, sent her an email. According to Margolis, it explained all the details that identified her, including her mothers job and address. It added that they had photographed her outside her flat, but the picture was not particularly flattering. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image, Hellen allegedly said. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and makeup. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

Margolis cried, and did not answer. There was no reason to reveal my identity, she says now. No reason to destroy the anonymity I had, other than to titillate their readers. Im still disgusted by their completely unjustified behaviour and I stand in solidarity with other writers who have gone through similar experiences. Months of fallout followed. Her work in the film industry became impossible. Often she had to field calls from friends who were being pestered by reporters.

Daniel
Daniel Defoe, whose book Robinson Crusoe was first published under its lead characters name. Photograph: Hulton Getty

Richard Horton had the same experience. He was the police officer behind NightJack, which won the Orwell blogging prize in 2009. Like Margolis, he had begun writing anonymously because it let him be truthful without damaging his life. Like Margolis, he never planned to reveal who he was. Then he was exposed by the Times in his case, because his email was hacked. We had photographers camped outside the door and people trying to phone me at home, says Horton. The experience scared his wife and children. We had to go away for a few days until things died down. I regret what happened to them as a result of my identity coming out more than anything else.

Legally, Ferrante has no good options. As an Italian, which Gatti says she is, she would have the right to respect for her private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to bring a claim against Gatti or his publishers, however, she would need to demonstrate specifically that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to her real name. I dont think that public interest justifies the exposure, says Jeremy Clarke-Williams, a specialist in privacy and defamation law at Slater and Gordon, but I dont think we reach that stage, because I dont think Elena Ferrante would be able to show that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Gatti sharing details of her finances might put her on stronger ground, but she would only lose more privacy by going to court. If she wants this to go away, Clarke-Williams says, or quieten down at least, its probably better for her to do nothing, rather than launch a court case where the media can sit back and enjoy the show.

It is interesting that writers cannot reasonably expect to keep their names unpublished, given how many have down the years. Daniel Defoe published as Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift as Lemuel Gulliver (with phoney portrait). Aphra Behn published pseudonymously. So did Henry Fielding. Samuel Richardson was anonymous and Jane Austen was just a Lady. Horace Walpole, all three Bronts and George Eliot all had noms de plume, and Eliots stuck. Even today, the famously anonymous are everywhere you look. Theres the world-famous artist Banksy, and one of the worlds most famous computer scientists, Satoshi Nakamoto, who invented bitcoin (and is probably not Craig Wright). The Old Bailey has just convicted one of Britains most famous journalists Mazher Mahmood, or the Fake Sheikh of conspiring to pervert the course of justice with one of his pseudonymous stings. Then there are the bloggers, including the Gay Girl in Damascus (who turned out to be none of those things). The Guardian itself has spawned the Secret Footballer, Secret Teacher, Secret Actress and Secret Policeman. It is clear that people often do expect to express themselves anonymously. Perhaps it is just not reasonable to expect things to stay that way.

It was pretty hard to have to keep such a big secret from people family, friends, colleagues, lovers, Margolis says. When I got my publishing deal, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but had to remain quiet. That was hard. To be so proud of something and not be able to share it is quite tough. The technical aspects are scarcely any easier. Brooke Magnanti is a research scientist who blogged as the call girl Belle de Jour until 2009 when, fearing that her identity was about to be revealed in a newspaper, she revealed it herself in a different one. She had managed six years of anonymity under intense pressure, and her own guide to online privacy shows it wasnt luck.

Highlights of the Magnanti method include: changing your email account twice a year and knowing which providers to avoid; knowing how to remove metadata from text documents and media files; learning how to use VPNs and Tor, and how to tell if your IP address is accessible; setting yourself up as a silent partner in a new company run by your accountant. At one point Magnanti installed a keystroke logger (which makes a secret record of all the buttons pressed on your computer) and found that someone close to me was spying on me when they were left alone.

Journalist
Journalist Mazher Mahmood, AKA the Fake Sheikh, who conducted pseudonymous stings on public figures, after his conviction at the Old Bailey this week. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Gattis justification for his scoop is vague. It centres on Ferrantes new book not a novel, but a collection of letters, essays and other pieces of nonfiction called Frantumaglia. According to its publisher, it answers many of her readers questions, but if Gatti is right, some of the answers are lies specifically that Ferrantes mother was a Neapolitan seamstress who spoke the Naples dialect, and that Ferrante herself grew up in the city until she ran away. He also contends that she is lying with a purpose: These crumbs of information seemed designed to satisfy her readers appetite for a personal story that might relate to the Neapolitan setting of the novels themselves.

To unmince those words, Gatti is saying that Ferrante wants people to believe she rescued herself through education from the slums of Naples, just as the Elena in her novels does. If people believe this, it would make the novels more than just the story of a woman overcoming poverty and patriarchy; it would make them an example of it happening for real. Seen this way, buying Ferrante becomes a kind of vote for feminism, and attacking her almost a vote against it; thus concocted sisterliness, not literary quality, explains the books success.

Whatever you believe, Im sure theres no need to explain why a man implying this would raise such fierce feelings. Even at the best of times there is a widespread view that female novelists are considered great more grudgingly than male ones. In any case, Gatti does not get close to proving that Ferrante had a scheme to deceive her readers, and proof is meant to matter to investigative journalists. Certainly, Ferrante is no Rahila Khan.

Who? In 1987, Virago published Down the Road, Worlds Away, a book of stories by a little-known British Muslim woman. Khans work, mostly about the hardship of Asian teenagers in modern Britain, had been broadcast on BBC Radio and much praised. An article in the Times Educational Supplement said that her first story almost persuaded me that literature still has some relevance to life.

Khan was shy about her fame, perhaps not surprisingly, although she took her shyness awfully far, never meeting or even speaking to her radio editor, her publisher or even her agent. There turned out to a simple explanation. She was the Reverend Toby Forward, an Anglican vicar in Brighton who believed that fiction by vicars wasnt taken seriously. When Virago found out, they were outraged, and withdrew the book from sale. Forward now writes childrens books, and has always argued, as Lionel Shriver did so shockingly at the Brisbane Writers festival last month, that fiction writers are supposed to imagine being other people. That doesnt mean you get it right, however. For instance, he imagined that Virago wouldnt mind.

Ferrante has no need to justify her anonymity. She can do whatever works for her. Interestingly, Clarke-Williams thinks that not even proven hypocrisy on her part would legally justify her exposure in the public interest. All shes doing is writing fiction which has struck a chord, and she may or may not have had the personal experience I think a writer of fiction is expected to make things up!

The
The late Harper Lee never hid her identity, but did manage to stay out of the public eye for much of her life. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Even so, it is worth considering her other choices. JD Salinger, Harper Lee and Thomas Pynchon have all shown that novelists need not conceal their names in order to be little-known. On the contrary, by making her identity a secret, Ferrante inevitably made it much more interesting, not least because it gave people cause to wonder whether she had something autobiographical to hide. She seems to have been drawn into all those interviews in an effort to explain herself.

She has mentioned being inspired by Jane Austen, whose anonymity made a great impression on me as a girl of 15, but Charlotte Bront is instructive, too. She published Jane Eyre as Currer Bell, with her sisters Emily and Anne being Ellis and Acton. Besides being averse to personal publicity, they had chosen pseudo-male names because of a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; indeed, rather than spending all its energy on Jane Eyre, the world spent much more on guessing who Currer Bell was, and especially which sex. This just made Charlotte more reluctant to reveal herself, which was torture when she realised that several of her literary heroes Dickens, Thackeray, Martineau were eager to meet her if she would just drop by. By the time her next novel, Shirley, was published, she was worried that her mail would be opened at the local post office. (A reminder that hacking was not invented with computers.) In the end, she gave in.

The point then, as now, as always, is that you cant seek attention for your work and hope that none seeks you. You cant choose absence. You can only choose to be yourself, or to be a mystery, and people who dont love mysteries cannot love novels either. Besides, of course it matters who the author is, at least eventually. Otherwise there could still be someone saying that Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, even Pride and Prejudice, were too good to be written by a woman.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/07/elena-ferrante-the-trouble-with-anonymity-claudio-gatti-jane-austen-rahila-khan


Elena Ferrante: literary storm as Italian reporter ‘identifies’ author

Claudio Gatti says he has solved one of modern literatures biggest mysteries but fans criticise his report as an intrusion

It is, arguably, the biggest mystery in modern literature: the true identity of novelist Elena Ferrante. But when one of Italys investigative journalists claimed to have unmasked her on Sunday, the response of many in the literary world was to ask why he had felt the need to do so.

Writing for the New York Review of Books and Il Sole 24 Ore, journalist Claudio Gatti said he had been able to identify the author of My Brilliant Friend and the rest of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series as a Rome-based translator who once helped run a publishing imprint of Italian writers.

But her publisher and high-profile authors asked why Gatti had acted the way he did. Sandro Ferri, Ferrantes publisher and one of the few people who is known to know her identity, said he was appalled by the attempt to unmask a woman who has purposely steered clear of the limelight and has always said that she only wanted to write books.

We just think that this kind of journalism is disgusting, he told the Guardian. Searching in the wallet of a writer who has just decided not to be public.

Readers called the alleged scoop an intrusion into the life of one of the worlds most influential female writers. Some were afraid it would stop Ferrante from ever writing again, saying the story had been driven by the ego of the reporter and the New York Review of Books.

Some said there were far more worthy targets of investigative journalism.

Pamela Paul (@PamelaPaulNYT)

Who else here would rather uncover Trump’s taxes than Elena Ferrante’s identity?

October 2, 2016

Kimberly Burns (@kimberlyburnspr)

Shameful. If Elena Ferrante doesn’t write another book, it is because of the attention-hungry egos of Claudio Gatti & @nybooks editors.

October 2, 2016

Jojo Moyes, the British author who wrote Me Before You, said the issue boiled down to something very simple: that Ferrante may have had good reason to write under a pseudonym.

Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes)

Re those last RTs. Maybe Elena Ferrante has very good reasons to write under a pseudonym. It’s not our ‘right’ to know her.

October 2, 2016

Gattis conclusion was based on his review of payments that were allegedly made by Ferrantes publisher, Edizione E/O, which Gatti said showed that the main financial beneficiary of Ferrantes extraordinary success was Anita Raja.

Rajas name will be familiar to those who have long followed the speculation over Ferrantes identity, as it has been raised in ruminative Italian press reports for years never with any solid evidence.

In his piece, Gatti pointed to Italian real estate records that allegedly showed Raja and her husband, Domenico Starnone, buying multimillion euro properties in Rome around the time that Ferrante became an international sensation.

Gatti reported that neither Raja nor Starnone had responded to repeated requests for comment.

In response to the criticism, Gatti said Ferrante was arguably the most well-known Italian figure in the world, and that there was a legitimate right for readers to know … as they have made her such a superstar.

He said Ferrante and her publishers acknowledged as much when they agreed to publish a autobiographical work called Frantumaglia, which Gatti said was full of untruths about Ferrantes personal story.

In it, Ferrante points to a quote from Italo Calvino: Ask me what you want to know, but I wont tell you the truth, of that you can be sure, saying she liked the passage.

I believe that by announcing that she would lie on her own autobiographical essay, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown, Gatti told the Guardian in an email.

Indeed, she and her publisher seemed not only to have fed public interest in her true identity but to have challenged critics and journalists to go behind the lies. She told us that she finds them healthy. As a journalist, I dont. In fact it is my job to expose them.

While dozens of articles have been written over the years speculating about Ferrantes true identity, Ferrante has always zealously guarded her anonymity, saying it gives her the protection she needs to write in the sometimes brutally honest style that millions of people have been drawn to.

Anita
Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator and allegedly the author Elena Ferrante. Photograph: nybooks.com

Readers and critics particularly admire Ferrante for her ability to capture the inner lives of women, a feat that the author has always suggested requires her to be shielded from public scrutiny.

Asked by the Guardian in an email interview earlier this year why she protected her anonymity, Ferrante said it was partly to shield the Neapolitan community from which she drew her inspiration. But there were other reasons, too.

The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become ones public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies, she wrote.

When asked in a 2015 email interview in the Financial Times about her characters emotional breakdowns, experiences that are described as dissolving, Ferrante said she had seen the phenomenon in her own mother.

We experience too many ties that choke our desires and ambitions. The modern world subjects us to pressures that at times we are not able to bear, she said.

In another passage, she explains the sometimes savage world she grew up in, where men could be violent to correct women.

In comments that could resonate in the media storm surrounding her identity, she wrote: Today much has changed but I still think the men who can really be trusted are a minority maybe (and this is what I tend to believe) its because male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us. Too many women are humiliated every day and not just on a symbolic level.

According to Gatti, Raja has worked as a German translator for Edizione E/O and helped to run an imprint there, Collana degli Azzurri, in the 1990s, which published about four books by Italian writers, including Ferrantes first novel. Among other works, Raja has translated the works of German writer Christa Wolf.

If Ferrantes identity is ever confirmed and it may never be it would at least end speculation, particularly in the Italian press, that Ferrante is actually a man.

In an article by journalist Rachel Donadio published in the New York Review of Books in 2014, Donadio said the suggestion was more telling about contemporary Italy than about Ferrantes work, before repeating the assertion that it could be Domenico Starnone, Rajas husband, or Raja.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/02/elena-ferrante-literary-storm-as-italian-reporter-identifies-author


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