The existence or not of the retro-commissions is at the heart of the campaign by the families of the 11 engineers, who are civil parties to the case led by Trévidic, to discover the truth of why they were murdered. They have openly accused president Sarkozy of lying, and of mounting a campaign to block access to evidence, notably defence documents.
Millon's statement, given on November 15th, refers to two arms contracts signed just before Balladur announced he was running against his fellow Gaullist and rival Jacques Chirac. These were the Agosta submarine contract and the sale of frigates to Saudi Arabia, known as the Sawari II contract.
Balladur's defence minister, François Léotard, introduced two key intermediaries for both deals, Ziad Takieddine and Abdul and Rahman El Assir, both of whom are referred to in Millon's statement below.
The book that Judge Van Ruymbeke refers to, 'The Contract', is that of Mediapart's two investigative reporters specialised in the Karachi affair, Fabrice Arfi and Fabrice Lhomme (see box).
Judge Van Ruymbeke: "The present investigation is aimed at identifying those denounced by the civil parties as having obstructed the process of justice. [The civil parties] complain that two Nautilus reports, dated September 11th and November 7th were hidden from them, and only became know to them at the end of 2008 through separate judicial investigations. The Nautilus reports state that the cause of the attack on May 8th, 2002, was the result of the halting of payments of commissions demanded during the signature of the Agosta contract, one part of which were intended for the corruption of political Pakistani decision-makers and military officials and the other part for the payment of retro-commissions. Did you have any knowledge of these reports?"
CHARLES MILLON: "Never."
Judge V.R.: "The reports make a link between the attack and the halting of payments of the commissions. In what circumstances did you intervene during the halting of commission payments in the Agosta and Sawari II contracts?"
CHARLES MILLON: "After the presidential elections in 1995, I was named Minister of Defence. In the following 15 days, the President of the Republic asked me to proceed with the revision of arms contracts and to verify as far as possible if there was evidence of the existence of retro-commissions."
Judge V.R.: "Did the President talk to you about his own suspicions?"
CHARLES MILLON: "If my memory is correct, the President said to me, as he declared during a press conference around July 14th, that he wished there to be a moralisation of public and political affairs and that there was too much noise about arms contracts and the existence of retro-commissions. He therefore asked me to proceed with a verification of all the contracts. Some contracts were confirmed, but, on the contrary, there were others which were the object of revision and even annulment. That was the case of the Agosta contract."
Judge V.R.: "Was that also the case for Sawari II?"
CHARLES MILLON: "I think it was."