Eskenazi, Ferdman, Frame, Francois

Mr. Eskenazi’s new company provides a classic example of how

capitalism works in France, where a coterie of personal friends,

professional managers, senior civil servants and private

investors forge business alliances that link many of the

nation’s largest companies in a complex network of cross-shareholdings.

—Charles Fleming, The Wall Street Journal, 2/22/91, A7F.


27.   Eskenazi, Gerard   (1931-     )

Former chief operating officer of the French bank Paribas (on the right in photo above). When François Mitterrand and the socialists started to nationalize French companies after they swept into power in 1981, Eskenazi convinced Belgian industrialist Baron Albert Frère (on the left above) to invest $20 million in Pargesa, a Geneva shell company which then bought Paribas’ Swiss assets. The socialists were furious and Eskenazi resigned from Paribas. But this began a very fruitful business relationship between Frère and Eskenazi, who proceeded to buy controlling interests in some of Europe’s most powerful companies.

One of their first acquisitions was Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, Drexel Burnham Lambert’s biggest shareholder. Eskenazi, Frère, and Baron Léon Lambert all sat on Drexel’s board. Eskenazi was the financial wizard of the team, so it was he who sat down with Drexel’s “wunderkind” Mike Milken in 1986 to set up a European company called Transcapital, which was supposed to sell U.S. junk bonds to European investors. These plans came tumbling down after American speculator Ivan Boesky pleaded guilty to massive insider trading and started to implicate the high-flying securities firm Drexel in his crimes. (see #11 on my list)

After Drexel went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert wrote off its $91 million loss against its 1989 earnings. A rift soon developed between Eskenazi and Frère. This may have been because Frère thought that Eskenazi should have sought more control over Drexel, or because Frère did not like Eskenazi’s plan to renew his relationship with Paribas. Whatever the case, Frère and Canadian Financier Paul Desmarais raised their joint stake in Pargesa and froze Eskenazi out.

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Divis, Drummond, Dunand, Erikson


In the words of the Swiss prosecutor, the men’s core business was money- laundering. Everything else, it seems, was secondary.



23.  Diviš, Jiři   (1956-     )

Former Czech basketball player who immigrated to Switzerland in 1979 to study law at the University of Fribourg. After graduation, Diviš became an international business consultant. In the 1990’s, he began to advise his childhood friend, Luboš Mĕkota, Deputy Chairman of the giant Czech mining company Mostecká uhelná společnost, a.s. (MUS). In 1999, Diviš and six associates used the Fribourg company Appian Group to purchase a controlling interest in MUS.

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Dard, Dassault, DeVoe, Diouri


19.  Dard, Frederic “San-Antonio” (1921 – 2000)

Immensely popular French writer of comic detective novels. During his long career of over 50 years, Dard wrote 300 books with sales of 270 million, making him the best-selling French author of the second half of the 20th century. Dard moved to Switzerland with his second wife, Françoise, in 1968. Ten years later, he bought a dilapidated XVIII century farm in Bonnefontaine, FR. It was in this renovated farmhouse that “San-Antonio” wrote over 100 novels on his IBM electric typewriter—he apparently hated computers.


Dard typing in the cow pasture of his Fribourg farm “l’eau vive”

On his death, one of Dard’s admirers, French president Jacques Chirac, declared in a statement at the Élysée Palace: “Our language has lost one of its magicians, one of those who knew how to add to its colors, to its vividness, to its force.” Dard’s career has often been compared to the prolific body of work of the Belgian detective writer Georges Simenon—and in fact it was Simenon who became something of a mentor for Dard. Their detectives, however, were very different: Simenon’s ruminating “Maigret” with his bourgeois home-life contrasts sharply with Dard’s freewheeling “commissaire San-Antonio” and his assistant, the Rablaisian “inspector Berurier.”

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Buzaianu, Charles, Choukroun, Cornfeld


15.  Buzaianu, Nicolae Bogdan   (1968-     )

One of the richest Romanian energy tycoons, who were known as the smart guys. These savvy wheeler-dealers managed to grab control of Romania’s lucrative energy sector in the early post-Communist era. While still a student in the mid-1990’s, The Swiss-based Buzaianu ingratiated himself with influential Romanian leaders—e.g. Romania’s ambassador to Switzerland Radu Boroianu –and by 1997 was able to win a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade Romania’s huge “Iron Gates” (Portile de Fier) hydroelectric plants on the Danube River. The “smart guys” were adept at obtaining below-market terms in buying the rights to distribute electricity from the impoverished (and politically corrupt) Romanian government. For example, the smart guys’ distribution companies would buy energy from Hidroelectrica at $25.- per megawatt and sell it back to the state at $80 – $90.  p.13

It has been estimated that between 2006 and 2012, Hidroelectrica, which owns most of Romania’s power plants, lost € 1.3 billion in profits because of these below-market deals with private distribution companies.

During this period, 60% of Hidroelectrica’s electricity was sold to Buzaianu’s company “Energy Holding Sarl” which was 95% owned by Buzaianu’s Fribourg company Energy Consult SA ECSA, with the remaining 5% owned by the Cypriot off-shore company Atell Investments.

Investigations were launched in Britain and Romania in the early 21st century to determine how Buzaianu and his associates were able to convince the Romanian government to sell them electricity so far below market value. The Romanian investigation accuses Buzaianu and other smart guys of “undermining the national economy.”

Perhaps because so much of Buzaianu’s business was conducted by a murky network of Swiss, British, and Cypriot companies, these investigations never resulted in charges being pressed.

Buzaianu’s Romanian critics claim that he has tried to remake himself as a “philanthropic” Swiss citizen (he obtained Swiss citizenship in about 2006). They claim that he even went so far as to change his name from the Slavic “Nicolae” to the French “Nicolas”(Fribourg’s patron saint is St. Nicolas). His critics believe that he became a Swiss “Fribourgeois” in order to shelter himself from eventual Romanian and British prosecution: Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and therefore is not always subject to the laws of the Common Market countries.

Buzaianu has also been accused by his detractors of funneling money outside Romania, perhaps by using suspicious companies he founded in the British Virgin Islands secrecy jurisdiction (Buzaianu figures on the “Off-shore Leaks” investigative website). See: “ICIS Offshore Leaks Database”  Read More

The People’s Climate March & My Petition Against The Three Koch Brothers


On September 20, 2014, I caught a flight up to NYC from Charleston to attend the big “People’s Climate March.” Early the next morning, I joined the crowd at 77th Street and Central Park West, just in front of the Museum of Natural History. As I approached the park, I overheard two French guys talking excitedly about “ la manif.” I had chosen this spot at the back of the 25- block-long parade because it had been designated as the anti-corporate section.



It was appropriate for me to begin my protest against fossil fuel next to the museum where polluter and climate-change denier David Koch has funded the famous dinosaur exhibit. Like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, I’m not crazy about Charles and David Koch. I’m not a big fan of David’s twin brother Bill, either. I corresponded with Bill back in the 1990’s when he was suing Charles and David. Bill used to be considered something of an environmentalist, but he has changed his stripes. See my petition which asks the directors of a Swiss zero-carbon technology park to expel six Koch-owned businesses from their city:


Just south of the museum, I had an encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Grrrrrrr!  Had it escaped from David Koch’s collection? A friendly German guy took my picture, and we had a nice chat about Freiburg im Breisgau, the “green” German city which is the sister city of Fribourg in Switzerland. It is in the Swiss city of Fribourg that Charles, David, and Bill Koch have companies that support their far-flung fossil-fuel businesses.



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Ivan Boesky, Robert Briner, Edgar-Hans Brunner, Jacques Buchi

scan001511. Boesky, Ivan (1937 -)


“ You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself “

–Ivan Boesky to graduating business majors at the University of California, Berkeley, 5/18/86

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

–“Gordon Gekko” in the 1987 film Wall Street


Notorious American arbitrageur who pleaded guilty to egregious insider trading and was fined $100 million.  He was sentenced to three years in prison in 1987.  Listed under his middle name “Frederick” in Fribourg’s Directory of Public Companies (“Annuaire Suisse du Registre du commerce”), Boesky obtained a bogus Fribourg residency for himself, his wife, and his four children in 1983.

Boesky was at the center of the insider trading investigations that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) undertook in the 1980’s. The rise in the number of mergers and acquisitions of corporations in the early 1980’s created an environment in which investors who were privy to “insider information” bought stock and options in target companies just before the official announcement that the companies would merge with or be acquired by another company. Since the price of the target company’s stock would rise after the announcement, the “insider traders” could reap substantial and illegal profits (under US law). Investors who played by the rules began to feel that the stock market was hopelessly rigged.

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Baudat, Belzberg, Benetton, and Bidermann

scan0010 7. Baudat, Eric   (1937-     )

« Entrent également au conseil [d’administration de Sasea] plusieurs banquiers dont le Parisien Truffert—une vielle connaissance de Fiorini—et Eric Baudat, vice-président du cabinet d’audit Fidès. Le premier commissaire aux comptes sera aussi Fidès, en association avec KPMG, choix qui ne manque pas d’étonner—même à Genève—au regard d’un évident conflit d’intérêt entre le poste de vice-président de la Sasea et celui de Fidès. »

–Thierry Jean-Pierre, Crédit-Lyonnais : l’enquête (1997) p. 109

The Lausanne lawyer who was Administrative President of Florio Fiorini’s Sasea Financière. Sasea was owned by the Vatican for almost 100 years before Fiorini bought it in 1985. “Sasea” is an acronym which stands for “Société Anonyme Suisse d’exploitations Agricoles.” The Vatican used it as a holding company for its foreign investments.

Baudat was not only a top executive at Sasea Holding SA, but also the Vice-President of one of its auditors. Thus, there seemed to be a conflict of interest (see above quotation). Baudat was charged with fraudulent bankruptcy in 1993 by Geneva judge Jean-Louis Crochet a year after Sasea went bust. It was the biggest Swiss bankruptcy of all time, causing a hole of over $1 billion in Switzerland alone. The sordid case was closed in 2014 after over 20 years of investigation. Baudat and other Swiss administrators of Sasea were acquitted in 1998.–nouvelles-inculpations-a-geneve.htm

At the center of the Sasea affair were the “rocambolesque” adventures of  financial wizard Fiorini, who had been involved in many Italian financial scandals in the final decades of the 20th Century—including the Banco Ambrosiano scandal of 1982—and his partner Giancarlo Paretti, a former waiter from Orvieto, Italy who turned himself into an international flim-flam man. To finance their grandiose investments, the irrepressible Paretti and the diffident Fiorini managed to obtain fabulous loans from the Dutch affiliate (CLBN) of the high-flying French bank Crédit Lyonnais. Much of what they got from Crédit Lyonnais was used to bribe other lenders. The duo’s biggest venture was their 1990 acquisition of US film-making giant MGM. Four months after Fiorini and Paretti bought it from American financier Kirk Kerkorian for $1.3 billion, MGM was bankrupt.

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The canton of Fribourg  is predisposed neither by its geography nor by

its history to a rapid economic expansion. It is not situated—as is Basel or

Lausanne—on one of the important European trade routes. Its religious

and political preferences have made it the enemy of its more powerful

neighbors. It is certainly glorious to be a bulwark of Catholicism, but this

has made it even harder for Fribourg to prove its value in terrestrial affairs.

–Professor Jean Valarché in Fribourg: An Expanding Economy (1965)

–Translated from the French–

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By Matthew Temme


“The Last Judgment,” the tympanum at the entrance of Fribourg’s St. Nicholas Cathedral

« The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly »

When Ollie North went before the joint Congressional committee which was investigating the Iran-contra affair, he promised that he would reveal everything about “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” (July 7, 1987)  In the same way, the following biographical entries portray a diversity of characters who are either good or bad, and sometimes even ugly. A number of these characters are quite famous. Four of them have graced the cover of Time magazine: Ivan Boesky and Raymond Loewy, once; Ferdinand Marcos twice; and Oliver North, six times.  Agents for Rupert Murdoch (on Time’s cover 3 times), and Saddam Hussein (a whopping 14 times on the cover of Time) set up companies in Fribourg  (see: nos. 21 and 36).  Roman Abramovich (no. 1), Charles and David Koch (no. 44), and François Pinault (no. 74) have figured on Time’s annual “Most Influential People” list. Some of the characters on my list are illustrious: no. 6 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and no. 61 won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008.

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C A S T   O F   C H A R A C T E R S

By Matthew Temme

The following lists of individuals and companies with connections to Fribourg should be read with certain things in mind. In the “Who’s Who in Fribourg” list, the people whose names are colored in red have all been investigated though not always convicted of crimes. Some have had their convictions overturned on appeal. Others have not been investigated personally, but the companies they ran or controlled were. The details of each person’s legal status will be given in the subsequent biographical section.

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