French town reels from fortune teller scandal

Cap d'Agde France
The town of Agde is home to Europe’s biggest swinger community

The town of Agde on the Mediterranean coast may be known for its beautiful sandy beaches and year-round sun, but it’s also got a reputation for wild sex parties.

The town is home to Europe’s biggest swinger community. Tens of thousands of couples head to the town from across Europe every year to swap partners.

But right now, the town is reeling from an entirely new scandal which has the rest of France shaking its head in collective bemusement and amusement.

It concerns a local fortune teller and the town’s mayor, Gilles d’Ettore, a former secret service officer and police officer.

Both are now in jail while under judicial investigation. The fortune teller, Sophia Martinez, faces charges of embezzling the mayor, while he himself is accused of corruption for spending lavish amounts of taxpayers’ money on her.

Ms Martinez had a reputation for being able to speak to the dead. When the mayor asked her to put him in touch with his deceased father, she succeeded. While performing séances, her voice would suddenly change and take on the tone of the mayor’s father.

Agde town hall

Both the mayor and the fortune teller are in prison while under judicial investigation


Over the past four years it is alleged that she manipulated the mayor in person and by phone with remarkable ventriloquist skills.

He received thousands of mysterious calls from “voices” of the dead including angels, some of them urging the mayor to help the fortune teller.

And that’s where the corruption comes in.

The mayor is alleged to have paid for lavish holidays for Ms Martinez and her family, including to Polynesia and Thailand, all using public funds. It’s alleged that the “voices” persuaded him to hire several members of her family to work for the town council and also renovate her home. Local businesses with connections to the mayor did the work for free out of fear of losing future contracts with him.

With all of the attention, the mayor’s lawyer Jean Marc Darrigade has been turned into a minor celebrity overnight.

Jean Marc Darrigade

Jean Marc Darrigade has described the story as crazy (Image: Check)


“It’s a crazy story,” he tells me at his office in nearby Montpellier. “It’s incredible because you have a man in politics, mayor and former MP who is very intelligent. And you discover that a man like that can be manipulated by a woman.”

“This is a woman who came into his life and said I can speak to your deceased father. She found a mental weakness in him and exploited it for personal gain. It took a long time before he accepted he had been conned,” Mr Darrigade adds.

But Ms Martinez’s lawyer, Luc Abratkiewicz, has a different view.

“She has admitted betraying the mayor’s confidence but it’s not a case of manipulation because she has owned up to what she did and other clients including doctors and architects said she had mystical powers,” he says.

“She revealed details about their lives that no-one else knew about.”

The lawyers deny it but locals said it all comes down to sex in a town with a lot of it already.

At a sun-splashed café near the town hall, one customer Jean-Max said: “I like the mayor, he has been good to me, he was tricked. Maybe he was in love with her.”

Another local added, chuckling: “For me, sex is at the heart of the scandal. SWhere there is money involved, then it means sex is part of it too.”

“They kind of go together.”

The far-right has made significant gains in this part of France in recent years. One of the mayor’s most vocal critics is Fabienne Varesano, a fast-rising local politician from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party. She has called on the mayor to resign.

Fabienne Varesano

Fabienne Varesano has called for the mayor to resign


“He can be generous, in love with lots of different women, that’s his personal life. But using taxpayers’ money, that is a different story,” she says.

“He has made a mockery out of our town.”

A judge is keeping both the mayor and fortune teller in custody to prevent potential witness tampering. Ms Martinez has been moved to solitary confinement after being assaulted at her women’s only prison wing with inmates accusing her of witchcraft.

By Chris Bockman – Chris Bockman is the author of “Are you the foie gras correspondent? Another slow news day in south-west France”.


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