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Sarkozy urged to testify in bomb case

Nicolas Sarkozy was on Friday urged to break his silence over the most potentially damaging corruption scandal of his career: an inquiry into whether he authorised illegal kickbacks from arms sales to Pakistan to fund a political campaign.

world Updated: Nov 20, 2010 00:27 IST
Angelique Chrisafis

Nicolas Sarkozy was on Friday urged to break his silence over the most potentially damaging corruption scandal of his career: an inquiry into whether he authorised illegal kickbacks from arms sales to Pakistan to fund a political campaign.

L’affaire Karachi is the most explosive corruption investigation in recent French history and the biggest scandal to personally threaten Sarkozy.

The potent saga of suspect submarine sales and illegal kickbacks centres around a bomb attack in Karachi in 2002, when 15 people, including 11 French engineers, were killed in what judges believe was a retaliation attack over unpaid government bribes.

The families of the French victims urged Sarkozy to testify to investigating magistrates.

“At the top of the French state there is a fear of this dossier advancing because it implicates Nicolas Sarkozy and those close to him,” said Olivier Morice, the families’ lawyer.

The Socialist party demanded “clarity” from the president and the immediate release of state classified documents to the investigation.

The scandal dates back to 1994 when Sarkozy was budget minister in a government led by his ally and mentor, Prime Minister Édouard Balladur. The Balladur government sealed a deal to sell three Agosta 90 submarines to Pakistan for an estimated $950 million.

To secure the contract large bribes were allegedly paid to Pakistani politicians and military, as well as commissions to middlemen. Paying commissions to intermediaries was not against the law at the time.

But the key issue is whether around €2m of illegal kickbacks from the sale were secretly funnelled back to France to fund Balladur’s unsuccessful 1995 presidential campaign. As budget minister, Sarkozy would have authorised the financial elements of the submarine sale. At the time he was also treasurer for Balladur’s campaign. gns

France told to talk to Osama

Top most commander of al Qaeda’s north African wing, holding five French hostages has demanded that negotiations for their release must be directly held with supreme leader Osama Bin Laden.

Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, also demanding withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan, made the offer in an audio tape broadcast on Al Jazeera. “... Any negotiations for the return of the hostages should be carried out directly with al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and according to his conditions”, he said. pti