The Elysée palace has confirmed with a little embarrassment that internet thieves have gained access to Sarko's account at his branch at Neuilly, his suburban home, and helped themselves.
There have been a series of debits of minor amounts -- in keeping with the phishing technique in which the crooks sneak out sums under about 200 euros in the hope of escaping detection. Sarko noticed the mysterious debits while going through his monthly statement. That must have been about the same time that he was arranging to pump billions into the banks on behalf of the tax-payer.
The authors of the swindle may not have realised whom they were dealing with and they may now wish that they had chosen a less distinguished target. "The swindlers will be punished," Luc Chatel, the secretary of state for consumer affairs, said as the fraud police put their finest sleuths onto the case. Once they nail the offenders, the Presidents' men may go after the bank -- which has not been identified -- and bring charges of misuse of personal data. Sarko, Mr Zero Tolerance in matters of law-and-order, cannot have taken lightly to being phished.
Chatel said the pilfering of Sarko's account showed that more needed to be done to tighten internet banking security. Fraud has risen by 9% this year. "This proves that the system of checking via the internet isn't infallible," he said.
France is suffering from about the same level of internet fraud as other European countries. In the field of payment cards that are used physically, it has had more security than most places because it introduced chips with PIN numbers in the early 1990s. Britain only did that with its credit cards a couple of years ago. About four years ago, someone stole my wallet with three credit cards when they picked my pocket. They did not manage to take anything off the French PIN-protected card but they spent several thousand euros on the two US-based cards within half an hour of the theft (all was immediately refunded by courteous Amex and Citibank customer service).
They were making fun of Sarko's hacking on the radio this morning. Nicolas Canteloup, who does a great daily impersonation of the President on Europe 1, did Sarkozy discovering that a certain "DSK" had debited his account to buy sex toys at an outlet in the Place Pigalle (DSK are the initails of the IMF boss).