Yves Bouvier case shows risks of media abuse
by: Bob Boulder
Sunday November 6, 2016 - 19:56
The relationships between business, particularly businesses with dubious reputations, and the media have often been hard for both parties to navigate.
At a global level, the conduct of major US TV networks in this year’s presidential election shows that powerful and shadowy commercial interests may well be exerting huge influence behind the scenes to secure favourable coverage for their preferred candidates.
The shorthand for these kind of alleged corrupt relationships is “pay to play”. The concept is simple: businessmen effectively pay for the media coverage they want.
As in politics, so in the world of art.
For nearly two years now the global art market has been convulsed by arguably the biggest scandal in its history, the case of Swiss art transporter Yves Bouvier who stands accused of defrauding his victims of as much as one billion dollars. Bouvier’s methods in his commercial art dealings have been well documented: the use of shadowy middle-men, secretive offshore holding companies, and other devices all to project the image of chains in a given transaction – when in reality there were none.
The same kind of methods of patronage can of course also be applied to the media. We already know Bouvier spends millions on hot-shot PR consultants like CNC and Kekst & Co., and also on an army of online trolls to trash the reputation of his alleged victims.
Relationships with supposedly traditional journalists also appear to be figuring in his defence campaign. Take the example of the Franco-Swiss journalist Ian Hamel.
Hamel is nominally employed as the Geneva correspondent of Le Point. But he is the most enterprising of freelancers, whose work crops up on many other Swiss and French outlets such as L’Agefi, Matin Dimanche, Radio Suisse International, Swissinfo, and Sept info.
He has also written or edited a number of controversial books, including one recently about Francois Rouge, the corrupt Swiss banker with ties to the Corsican mafia; another about Nicolas Sarkozy, and perhaps his most bitterly resented one – a book about Swiss intellectual, Tariq Ramadan.
Hamel’s recent coverage of the Yves Bouvier scandal seems always willing to stretch reality to help the beleaguered Bouvier wherever possible. Often the facts are forgotten if they do not fit the narrative to advocate for Bouvier and attack his victims.
Extremely partial “information” provided by Bouvier is reported by Hamel as though it were objective fact. Similarly, when Bouvier’s team places articles in dubious media sources in different countries, Hamel dutifully picks them up and reproduces them.
It seems Hamel has been well chosen as a journalist with appropriate “flexibility”.
The academic Ramadan attacked Hamel as one of the most dishonest and corrupt journalists he had ever encountered. Other critics have called Hamel, “…a social climber who disseminates information invented from scratch, who is ethically reprehensible”. He has also been described as, “specializing in intellectual and journalistic dishonesty.”
What connections could Hamel and Bouvier share other than that of patron and client?
Interestingly, Hamel’s recent subject Francois Rouge, was charged with “money laundering and conspiracy” connected to the infamous Cercle Concorde gambling scandal, which authorities linked to organised crime in Corsica.
By coincidence, the Corsican Jean-Marc Peretti, owner of the Nelombos gallery, is a close associate of Yves Bouvier who was often used as a frontman in Bouvier’s art deals.
Peretti is believed to have connections to a number of different interests in Corsica. He was, according to the New Yorker magazine, investigated for running an illegal gambling circle in Paris in 2009.
A final interesting “coincidence”: in Ian Hamel’s book of interviews with Francois Rouge, Rouge laments the decline of Swiss banking secrecy. “For inveterate fraudsters,” Rouge says, “I advise instead to turn to Hong Kong or Singapore.”
Where did Bouvier go after Switzerland and Luxembourg? You’ve guessed it: Hong Kong and Singapore.
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