The upcoming trial of former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin took a new twist today with fresh revelations that the top politician knowingly plotted to smear President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Villepin goes on trial on September 21 on charges of conspiring to slander Sarkozy in the so-called Clearstream affair, a complex case dating back to 2004 when the two men were locked in a bitter rivalry for the French presidency.
The former prime minister and foreign minister, who led the charge against the US invasion war of Iraq at the United Nations, has denied any wrongdoing and struck back, accusing Sarkozy of meddling.
But a leading newspaper at the weekend quoted an affidavit from a key defendant, Imad Lahoud, as saying that Villepin was behind the conspiracy targeting Sarkozy.
Lahoud told French investigators in December that he had added Sarkozy's name to a bogus list of Clearstream account holders who had allegedly received kickbacks from arms sales to Taiwan, the Journal du Dimanche reported.
"By doing this, I was contributing to sidelining Nicolas Sarkozy," Lahoud, a former employee of European aerospace giant EADS, told investigators, the report said.
Lahoud said he knew that Villepin was in contact with former EADS vice president Jean-Louis Gergorin, a key player in the scandal who has admitted to leaking the false Clearstream list to investigators in 2004.