French mercenary Bob Denard, British author Frederick Forsyth's source of inspiration for the novel The Dogs Of War, died Saturday in Paris.
Though never confirmed or admitted, many of Denard's exploits are widely assumed to have had the tacit approval of French authorities, who were anxious to maintain French influence in Africa.
The suspicion that he was regarded with leniency in his home country grew stronger in 1993 when a five-year French prison sentence over a failed 1977 coup attempt in Benin was reduced to a suspended sentence.
His final French conviction - for a 1995 coup attempt in the Comoros - also earned him a suspended sentence.
This was later increased by an appeal court to a year in jail with three suspended - but he never served it because of ill health.
In 1999, Denard - then 70 - was tried in connection with the assassination of Comoran President Ahmed Abdallah 10 years earlier. He was cleared.
During a trial on appeal in 2006, a former head of the foreign intelligence service said:
"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war."
When special services are unable to undertake certain kinds of undercover operation, they use parallel structures. This was the case of Bob Denard.
Julius Caesar, Scene I, Act III