Former French ambassador Boris Boillon (pictured) was arrested on July 31 at Paris’s Gare du Nord station, it emerged on Friday, as he attempted to board a train to Brussels with more than 350,000 euros in cash.
Former French ambassador Boris Boillon was arrested on July 31 at Paris’s Gare du Nord station, as he attempted to board a train to Brussels carrying more than 350,000 euros in cash, it emerged on Friday.
It seems like a spectacular fall from grace for a man who enjoyed such an illustrious political career. Fluent in Arabic, he served as his country’s ambassador in both Iraq and Tunisia. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi referred to him as “my son,” and ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, for whom he worked as an advisor, affectionately called him “my little Arab”.
Boillon was stopped by customs as part of a routine check, according to the French investigative website Mediapart, which broke the story. When asked if he had any currency on him, the ex-diplomat said nothing about the hundreds of thousands of euros in his bag. A major faux-pas considering that French law requires all people entering or leaving the country to declare any sum of money equal to or exceeding the amount of 10,000 euros.
Boillon’s bag was subsequently searched, and lo and behold, it was stuffed with envelopes of cash.
A simple explanation?
The 43-year-old said that the cash was payment for past consulting work, which he claims nets him around 500,000 euros per year.
“It’s money that I made this year in Iraq from the services I provide to Iraqi companies,” Boillon said, according to an excerpt of his testimony obtained by Mediapart. “Because Iraq lacks a developed banking system, these companies wired me the cash to Paris.”
Although Boillon lives in an affluent suburb of Brussels, his offices are based in Paris.
As to why he was travelling without a passport, Boillon explained that he had simply forgot his ID papers at home.
“I had come to Paris that morning, just for the day because I wasn’t comfortable with the money stashed away in my office, and another part buried next to my cellar. I wanted to take care of the situation as soon as possible,” Boillon explained.
An investigation into the incident has since been opened. It remains to be seen, however, if French customs will believe Boillon’s simple explanation.