Since 2008, Dominique de Villepin has been reaping the benefits of a network of business contacts built up over 30 years in the corridors of power. His law firm, Villepin international, which opened in April 2008, is devoted to his new profession of business facilitator. De Villepin, who was Jacques Chirac's prime minister from 2005 to 2007, is discreet about the identities of his customers and the nature of the work he carries out and some of the voyages he makes are shrouded in mystery. What was he doing, for example, in Iran in 2008 with former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and in Azerbaijan in February 2013 when he met President Ilham Aliyev?

Consultant for French companies abroad

De Villepin acts on behalf of major French groups like Patrick Kron-led heavy plant supplier Alstom and the Total oil group, which is run by his old friend Christophe de Margerie. These groups have long-term contracts with Villepin International. De Villepin, a former diplomat who was part of the Voltaire intake at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), assists these companies in two regions where he has long experience: South America and the Middle East. His diplomatic and, subsequently, political career have enabled him to get to know and win the appreciation of several heads of state in these two regions, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5 2013, the Emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner.

And vice versa

But, more recently, de Villepin has also acted as consultant for foreign companies looking to set up in France. He has acted in this way for the Qatar Foundation, run by the emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah, for the holding company of Japan's Nambu clan, which runs the giant Pasona temporary employment group, and for South American groups.

De Villepin has drawn around himself an innder circle made up of businessmen, redoubtable lawyers and experienced diplomats. All are united by a certain fascination for their "great man".

A never abandoned interest in politics

Away from business, Dominique de Villepin never severed his links with French politics during the five years that Nicolas Sarkozy was in office. Even when the press was struggling to find words harsh enough to describe the enmity between the two, they continued to meet occasionally to talk about domestic politics or de Villepin's business operations. At the same time, de Villepin regularly phoned Claude Guéant, secretary general at the Elysée Palace from 2007 to 2011, when he was due to meet foreign officials, even if only to keep him informed of what he was doing.

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