Tapped conversations, produced by the French courts, suggest the involvement of King Albert II in a matter mentioned by the Kazakhgate Parliamentary Enquiry Committee. In particular, it relates to the attempt to bestow a peerage upon the Belgian billionaire, George Forrest, who was active in the Congo. The newspaper Le Monde reported this in yesterday’s edition (Tuesday).
George Forrest was liable to offer facilities in certain French politico-industrial circles. He had already been mentioned by this enquiry committee, when the Holy See’s former Ambassador, Charles Ghislain, referenced Forrest’s involvement.
Ghislain confirmed that he reported to the Office for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders (MR), the involvement in Kazakhgate of the main individual requesting that the peerage be made.
This was Jean-François Étienne des Rosaies, adviser to the then President Nicolas Sarkozy. The latter was also an adviser to the Order of Malta, an organisation based in Rome. This therefore explains the approach to the Holy See’s Ambassador.
One particular letter says that Charles Ghislain spoke of having received “a telling off” from Minister Reynders, after this receiving this admonition. He was told that this could be the end of his career.
Yet, Jean-François Étienne des Rosaies ended up precisely at the heart of the telephone tappings, being part of the Kazakhgate investigation. These tappings clarify the circumstances which, say the investigators, led George Forrest to pay a total of €95,000 to Mr Sarkozy’s adviser and the Order of Malta.
The plan was for the adviser to intervene with King Albert II, so as procure Forrest the title baron.
The publication Le Monde refers to an e-mail trail in which, through one of des Rosaies’s friends, François de Radiguès’s, the role of King Albert II on the peerage committee is mentioned. This is with a view to bestowing “a great honour upon Mr Forrest.”
The plea was given to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2010, Steven Van Ackere (CD&V).
We return to Mr des Rosaies tapped conversations. At the time his line manager at the Élysée Palace was Claude Guéant, who extoiled Mr des Rosaies virtues to the enquiry commission.
George Forrest raised the issue again as, in 2012, he only obtained the rank of Commander of the Order of Leopold.
Mr de Radiguès, indicated having reiterated to Albert II the request to intercede so that Mr Forrest could obtain the title of baron. The King would then be reserving “the right to exercise his royal prerogative.”
Per this system, the given minister is free to propose that the royal favour of placing an individual on the peerage list be carried through.
The matter was, however, closed for investigation by the Peerage Committee by a chef de cabinet. This was owing to the nefarious reputation of the billionaire in his African business affairs.
George Forrest’s circle then struggled time and time again to make headway. Jean-François Étienne des Rosaies pulled strings in high places within Order of Malta and with Claude Guéant, advocating for the issue of a peerage for George Forrest.
In April 2014, George Forrest ended up obtaining the distinction of Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown.