The rabidly antisemitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was sentenced to two years in prison by the Paris Criminal Court on Friday, which convicted him of tax evasion and money laundering.
However, the comedian — who has built his reputation in France by mocking the Nazi Holocaust and promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories — is unlikely to serve actual jail time and will perform “community service” instead, Radio France International reported. He has also been ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 euros (approximately $225,000).
Dieudonné has been on trial since March, following a police raid on his home in which a hidden trove of 657,000 euros in cash was discovered. Much of the money the comedian was laundering through front companies was funneled to his family members in Cameroon, the trial heard.
Noémie Montagne, Dieudonné’s partner, was sentenced alongside him with eighteen months in prison suspended and a 50,000-euro fine for crimes including VAT fraud and abuse of corporate resources. The trial disclosed that tax offenses related to Dieudonné’s performances stretched back to 1997.
Throughout the trial, Dieudonné’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the comedian was the victim of a political witch-hunt to smear him as an “antisemite,” following a performance in 2013 in which he expressed regret that a Jewish journalist had not been sent to “the gas chambers.” The prosecution responded vigorously that the comedian was not undergoing a “political show-trial,” in turn accusing Dieudonné of “playing the victim.”
Dieudonné turned to antisemitism as his primary source material in 2002, when he opined that the Jewish faith was the “original fraud.” His close associates include the late Robert Faurisson, an unrepentant Holocaust denier, and Alain Soral, a far-right propagandist with whom he traveled to North Korea last year.
The rise in Dieudonné’s public profile over the past two decades has coincided with a dramatic increase in antisemitism in France, with several particularly violent episodes that led many French Jews to ask whether they have a long-term future in the country. These included the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish salesman, in 2006, the frenzied beating to death of 65-year-old widow Sarah Halimi (no relation) in 2017, and the stabbing and immolation of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, in 2018.
In addition, terrorist attacks on Jewish targets have claimed the lives of eight people, including three small children murdered in a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.
Government figures for 2018 published in February showed a 74-percent rise in the number of antisemitic attacks in France over the previous 12 months.