A French mayor now faces being expelled from Les Républicains political party and has been questioned by the police after recordings emerged suggesting he wanted to use an alleged ‘sex tape’ to blackmail his former deputy.
Gaël Perdriau, mayor of Saint-Étienne (Loire), is now the subject of an expulsion procedure after audio recordings released by Mediapart appeared to suggest that he wanted to put pressure on his former deputy, Gilles Artigues.
This would be achieved, he said, via the release of an alleged video purporting to show Mr Artigues receiving an erotic massage from a male escort in a Paris hotel in 2014-2015.
Mr Artigues is a centrist politician, and known to be a conservative Catholic.
Five people taken into custody
The Lyon prosecutor's office told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Mr Perdriau was taken into custody on Tuesday, September 13, along with four members of his team.
These were his chief of staff Pierre Gauttieri, regional municipal deputy Samy Kéfi-Jérôme and his former partner Gilles Rossary-Lenglet, as well as deputy chief of staff Claire Vocanson.
Mr Rossary-Lenglet told Mediapart in an interview that along with Samy Kéfi-Jérôme, he organised a meeting between Mr Artigues and the escort in order to entrap the former. The ensuing scene was filmed and the video allegedly enabled Mr Perdriau and his cabinet to dissuade Mr Artigues from running for local MP and mayor.
Mr Rossary-Lenglet claimed that Mr Perdriau used public funds to pay €50,000 for the tape.
He added that Mr Kéfi-Jérôme had revealed the video to Mr Artigues 18 months after it was filmed, showing him a ‘teaser’ called: ‘In bed with Gilles Artigues’.
Les Républicains ‘Condemn the despicable methods used’
Mr Perdriau’s lawyer, Christophe Ingrain, told AFP that his client’s custody was lifted at 14:00, and added that his client had not been charged or placed under judicial supervision.
The president of Les Républicains political party, Annie Genevard, told Le Monde: "While it is now up to the courts…to decide on the guilt and degree of involvement of Mr Perdriau, Les Républicains can only condemn the despicable methods used by the mayor of Saint-Étienne against a political rival.
"The revelations, with the recordings, confirm the involvement of Perdriau and his entourage. We respect the rule of law.”
She said that she had approved a request for Mr Perdriau’s expulsion by the LR federation of Loire, "which will be ratified by the next political meeting".
Le Monde also reported that Mr Perdriau was not up to date with his membership fees, and was therefore considered to be a “member” of the party only, which will likely make any future expulsion easier.
Ms Genevard said that Mr Perdriau had already been stripped of all of his political responsibilities.
Threatening to publish the tape on social media
In one published recording, Mr Gautierri can be heard threatening Gilles Artigues several times, suggesting that he could circulate the video widely, including to parents of the schools attended by his children.
He can be heard saying: “I’ve got a video showing your bum in the air with a bloke. Doesn’t that worry you?”
The mayor later appears to warn: “Once this is on social media, it’s no longer blackmail, it’s an execution.”
The public prosecutor's office in Lyon has now opened a judicial investigation into the case following a complaint by Mr Artigues, and is investigating for "invasion of privacy, aggravated blackmail, misappropriation of public property by a person in charge of a public function, breach of trust and concealment of these offences”.
Blackmail is punishable by two years in prison in France.
When contacted by Mediapart, Mr Perdriau and Mr Gauttieri denied all the allegations.