From the Elysée to beyond

(Le Monde diplomatique) --
By Nizar Manek, 24 June 2014
One of Ghislain de Castelbajac’s young apprentices invites me to enter a range of codes, take an elevator half-way up a baroque building nestled at the end of a mew in Paris. It is a grand entrance, and I am told simply to knock at an unnumbered door next to the elevator. There is no marking outside, but Ghislain, a due diligence operative and lobbyist who began his career as a member of the Secrétariat général de la défense nationale (SGDN) as a Chargé de Mission, is waiting and opens the door just as I knock. We sit in a spacious, dimly lit room amongst family heirlooms, which include an eighteenth century embroidered rug behind us, which is a rendition of the three phases of womanhood depicted in Raphael’s Les Trois Grâces, a Flemish painting of a Napoleonic camp, and an antique clock from the period following Napoleon’s return from Egypt in 1810.
Ghislain is also an associate professor in international risks management and due diligence techniques in emerging markets at the Ecole de Guerre Economique in Invalides, from where he plucked his young confrère Tristan out of 80 students last year to join in his ‘enhanced due diligence missions,’ 180 so far in 45 countries around the world, from Egypt to Nigeria, Turkey to Russia. “I counted yesterday,” he tells me with as much surprised eagerness as unhurried nonchalance. Others among his students go to offer the lay of the land to corporate compliance departments, others to the military and government intelligence. “In general, the students enjoy it.”
(2,070 words)