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French press review 19 October 2018

Johnny Hallyday's latest album has been on sale since midnight. The French dailies are in uproar!


It's hard to get away from Johnny Hallyday. He's back on French front pages as fans have been rushing since midnight to snap up copies of the departed rocker's latest, last and 51st album.

The platinum level, that's one hundred thousand sales, had already been surpassed by one minute past midnight as shops honoured pre-release orders. Warner Music say that 800,000 copies have already been distributed, that they have no real idea what level sales might finally reach, but they clearly expect something spectacular.

Johnny has done it before. His 1999 album Blood for blood sold two million copies, 250,000 of them on the first day alone.

Overnight, sales on streaming services and internet downloads, were running at three or four times the rate in 1999. To speed up sales of physical disks, supermarkets and food shops are being supplied with copies, and many music specialists have been open since midnight.

Since the same hour earlier this morning, fans have been able to go to the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station here in Paris and plug their headphones into a huge circular structure offering the album repeatedly, free and in its entirety.

Le Figaro, that normally staid pillar of right-wing propriety, is letting its hair down for the occasion, the conservative paper's web site offering extracts from the new record for free.

The release of the album was delayed for over two months by a legal dispute over the singer's last will and testament, initiated by his children David and Laura. Today, in one of those bizarre coincidences, is the feast of Saint Laura.

How to get away with billion-euro tax fraud

Le Monde gives pride of place on its front page to a new form of financial fraud which has been allowing investors get away without paying tax on their stock exchange earnings.

The centrist paper says the scheme, organised by French bankers on behalf of rich overseas clients, has beeing costing the tax authorities billions of euros every year. It's either a necessary evil to attract money into the French investment loop, or yet another clever rip-off to allow the well heeled to get better heeled and the expense of us, the down at heel.

The scheme is Solomonic in its simplicity. Normally, foreign investors are liable to pay a 15 percent tax on their earnings from shares in French listed companies. Unless they "loan" their shares to a French-based bank just before the share dividend is paid. The bank receives the money in its own name, is not liable for any tax on share earnings because it is French, and then pays the boodle back to the investor when they return his shares a few days later. The bank charges a little fee for its services, and Bob's your aunty.

Except that the tax bill for the rest of us has to compensate for the three billion euros this lets throught the net. That's one billion euros more, for example, than the government's current budget to combat poverty.

Last waltz for Valls in Barcelona?

The attempt by French former prime minister, Manuel Valls, to reignite his spluttering political career by becoming the mayor of the Catalan city of Barcelona, is, well, spluttering.

Le Figaro gleefully notes an opinion poll published yesterday by the Spanish daily El Periodico in which our hombré was rated four out of ten by those voters questioned, thus coming in last place behind the current left-wing mayor, Ada Colau, and a long way short of the favourite, Ernest Maragall, who is also left wing but favours Catalan independence.

And it's not that Valls is an unknown newcomer. Eighty-two percent of those questioned know exactly who he is. Which may be a big part of the problem, Valls having being described as "one of the broken toys of French politics" by a commentator in the daily paper El Païs.

Valls' father was Catalan but his mother was Swiss-Italian, suggesting that the poor man has at least two remaining chances of getting back on the band-wagon.

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