Did French President Nicolas Sarkozy take kickbacks from an arms deal his country signed with Pakistan in 1994?
The long standing allegation was revived on Thursday after the French media reported that police in the tax haven of neighbouring Luxembourg had named Sarkozy as the man behind a company registered there, which is alleged to have received the illegal payments.
The money is also said to have funded the 1995 French presidential campaign of former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur. Sarkozy, who had served under Balladur as the budgets minister, was the campaign spokesman.
The President's office described the media reports as "nonsense" and "grotesque".
The deal referred to was the sale of three Agosta 90B submarines to Pakistan for Euro 800 million (Rs 4,800 crore).
The French media has claimed 10 per cent of the amount went back as bribes to Pakistani officials, and was distributed by a certain Asif Zardari, then investment minister in wife Benazir Bhutto's government.
Under the alleged deal, however, part of the kickback was also kicked back to France.
The French newspaper Liberation said a sum of 10 million francs (Rs 8.7 crore) was deposited in the front company's account, just before the French election.
But Balladur lost the election. Victorious president Jacques Chirac reportedly decided to cancel the remaining kickbacks to Pakistani officials.
The move angered certain elements in Pakistan so much, claimed the report, that a terror attack targeting French officials followed soon after. Eleven French military engineers in Karachi, working on the Agosta submarines, were among 14 people killed in an attack on their bus by a suicide bomber on May 8, 2002.
Although the attack was initially blamed on the Al Qaeda, families of the French victims later claimed it was masterminded by Pakistani officials because the bribe they expected was not paid in full.
The claim was later upheld by a French court investigating the Karachi bombing.
"The Al Qaeda line of inquiry has been totally abandoned," said lawyer Olivier Morice, who is acting for seven of the families. "This is all linked to the payment of commissions."