A scandal that refuses to die

THE Elf company has long been at the center of a strong of investigations into corruption in France and the French judicial authorities are not finished yet. The latest move in the long-running saga is the arrest of a German businessman called Dieter Holzer who is being asked to explain his role in the 1992 purchase of the East German oil refinery Leuna (which became known as Elf Minol). Germany government at the time - led by Chancellor Helmut Kohl - was allegedly paid $37m in illegal commissions as part of the deal.

Elf Minol turned up as a sponsor in Formula 1 the following year with the Benetton team although there has never been any suggestion that there was any wrongdoing involved in that deal.

Ironically, the same judges who are now investigating the Elf scandal were those who arrested Ligier boss Cyril de Rouvre at the end of 1993. This led to Ligier being acquired by Flavio Briatore, the boss of Benetton, so that he could get his hands on Renault engines for the 1995 season. Briatore later sold the team to Alain Prost.

Elf has since been sold to the public and merged into the TotalFinaElf group.

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