According to information contained in a confidential report prepared by a recognised French expert on terrorism and terrorist financing, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign received up to 50 million euros in secret funds from the regime of the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Mediapart has obtained exclusive access to the document, written by Jean-Charles Brisard, who has notably served since 2002 as an investigator for lawyers representing relatives of the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
Brisard, 43, was employed over recent years as an advisor on terrorist issues to several French government departments and, in 2008, President Sarkozy awarded him the rank of Knight of the French National Order of Merit. He was also a special advisor on economic intelligence for the former Vivendi Universal - now Vivendi - media corporation.
Brisard’s report is based on confidential conversations he held with a French neurosurgeon, Didier Grosskopf, who was once close to Paris-based arms dealer Ziad Takieddine. Between 2004 and 2006, Doctor Grosskopf accompanied the arms dealer on several trips to Libya to treat members of Gaddafi’s family.
Takieddine is at the centre of an ongoing judicial investigation into the suspected illegal funding via weapons sales abroad of former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur’s 1995 presidential election campaign. The Lebanese-born broker was last September placed under investigation, a legal move that is one step short of being charged, for his suspected role in siphoning off commissions paid in arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to finance Balladur’s campaign.
Two longstanding friends of Sarkozy, who was Balladur’s budget minister and served as his campaign spokesman, were also placed under investigation last September over their involvement in the suspected scam, which has become dubbed in France as The Karachi Affair (For more on this, see Mediapart's Q&A guide here and a video presentation here).
But the exclusive revelations of Brisard’s report, published here, relate to Takieddine’s role, between 2002 and 2009, as an advisor and intermediary for weapons contracts mounted by Sarkozy’s inner political team with several Arab countries, and notably Libya. (A list of links to Mediapart investigations into Takieddine’s role with Sarkozy’s team can be found at the end of this article on page 4).
In 1995, Jean-Charles Brisard served as a junior member of Edouard Balladur’s presidential election campaign team. Questioned as a witness in the investigation into the suspected illegal financing of Balladur’s bid, he provided police with a note containing a summary of information potentially relevant to the case, and which included a reference to his report entitled ‘GEN/ NS V. MEMO DG’. This note was added to the evidence collected in the case on October 18th, although the report itself was not handed over to the investigators.
Mediapart has now gained full access to the document, which discloses information given to Brisard by Doctor Grosskopf during a confidential conversation between the two men held on December 20th 2006 in the Swiss town of Lausanne.
The document, an extract of which is precisely copied from the original immediately below here, refers to Nicolas Sarkozy and Ziad Takieddine by their initials, as it does also to the French president’s longserving friend and aide Brice Hortefeux, a former interior minister and currently vice-president of Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party.
MODALITES FIN CAMPAGNE NS REGLEES LORS DE LA VISITE LIBYE NS + BH 06.10.2005
PLUSIEURS ENTRETIENS PREALABLES ENTRE ZT ET SAIF AL ISLAM
ZT CHARGE DU MONTAGE
ZT INTERV CONTRATS COMM SEC ARMEES ET CARTES ID A PUCES
FIN LIB 50 ME
MONTAGE INCLUT SOC BH PAN + BANQUE SUISSE (ND)
FIN CAMPAGNE TOTALEMENT REGLE
The first part of the document is entitled 'CAMP07', referring to the 2007 French presidential election campaign. In an apparent reference to Sarkozy and Hortefeux, and with abbreviations of words, it describes how the “campaign financing methods” of “NS” were “settled during the NS + BH Libya visit” on October 6th 2005.
Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister (1), under President Jacques Chirac, when he undertook the official visit to Libya in October 2005. Hortefeux was then a junior minister under Sarkozy, in charge of regional public authorities.
Sarkozy’s trip to Libya had been prepared by Ziad Takieddine, according to a series of notes that the latter sent to Claude Guéant, then Sarkozy’s principal private secretary at the interior ministry, and which have been seized as evidence by Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, the magistrate leading the ongoing investigation into the suspected illegal political funding corruption scam. Guéant, who became Sarkozy’s presidential chief-of-staff after the latter’s election in 2007, is the current French interior minister (2).
1: Nicolas Sarkozy was French interior minister, under then-President Jacques Chirac, from May 7th 2002 until March 30th 2004. He became finance minister from March 31st 2004 until November 29th 2004, again under President Chirac. He was re-appointed interior minister, still under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, from June 2nd 2005, until March 26th 2007. Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of France in 2007 and took up his functions on May 16th 2007.
2: Claude Guéant was principal private secretary to interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy from 2002 to 2004, and occupied the same post when Sarkozy became finance minister between March and November 2004, and again when Sarkozy returned to government as interior minister between June 2005 and March 2007. Guéant became secretary- general of the Elysée Palace, equivalent to chief-of-staff, of the French presidency after Nicolas Sarkozy's election as French President in May, 2007. On February 27th 2011, Guéant was appointed as Minister of the Interior, succeeding Brice Hortefeux.
'Guéant called Sarkozy the boss'
‘CAMP07’ also mentions Takieddine by his initials in a reference to “several preliminary discussions between ZT and Saif al-Islam”, second son of Gaddafi. ‘ZT’ is described as “in charge of the mounting” of an operation parallel to his “interventions” in a commercial deal between France and Libya for the sale to the Tripoli regime of a secure encrypted communications system, and a plant to manufacture identity cards embedded with electronic chips.
As Mediapart reported last year, the sale of the encrypted communications system, built by French IT company Bull’s subsidiary Amesys, then operating under the name i2e, was brokered by commission-paid Takieddine.
According to the notes in ‘CAMP07’, the Libyans were to offer “financing” of a total of 50 million euros through a covert system that involved a “BH” company based in Panama (in an apparent reference to Brice Hortefeux), and an unidentified Swiss bank. The notes concluded with the comment: “Campaign financing totally settled”.
Contacted by Mediapart, Brice Hortefeux, (who is currently in charge of the president’s re-election campaign ‘rapid reaction’ team set up to present swift counter arguments to rival candidates), confirmed his presence in Libya alongside Sarkozy during the October 6th 2005 trip, but denied that any discussions were held with the Tripoli regime concerning the financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. “There was never any question of political financing, neither near nor far,” he said.
Questioned by Mediapart about the reference in the notes 'CAMP07' to a “BH” company based in Panama, Hortefeux replied: “I don’t even know what this is.”
During 2005, Takieddine made 11 trips to Libya and filed more than ten reports about Libya-related matters for the attention of Sarkozy’s inner cabinet, headed by Guéant, at the interior ministry. According to documents obtained by Mediapart, Takieddine was present not only during Sarkozy’s October 2005 trip to Libya but also during others made by Guéant and Hortefeux.
A number of references in the document ‘CAMP07’ correspond with Takieddine’s own confidential notes, which were last year handed over to Judge Van Ruymbeke by Takieddine’s British former wife, Nicola Johnson.
Questioned by Van Ruymbeke on October 12th 2011, Takieddine gave a statement saying: “The notes that I made about different countries on my computer, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Lebanon, are real and were given by me to Monsieur Guéant who needed them to hand them over to the minister [Nicolas Sarkozy], who he called 'the boss'.”
In a report dated September 6th 2005 planning Sarkozy’s trip to Tripoli and entitled 'Visit of the Minister, October 6th 2005', Takieddine advised on a preparatory visit by Claude Guéant: "The preparatory visit is unusual. It must be of a secret nature,” he wrote. “For this reason it will be preferable that CG [Claude Guéant] travels alone, and that the journey is done ‘without fanfare'. The other advantage: greater ease with which to broach the other important subject, in the most straightforward manner." The "other important subject" was not explained in the document.
On September 22nd 2005, Takieddine sent another note on the preparatory visit, referring to a tête-à-tête meeting between Sarkozy and “the Leader”, meaning Gaddafi, and a study of the “the CV of NS and BH” before “giving them to the Leader”. Under the heading “Planned appointments and discussions”, Takieddine noted one to be had “With the Minister of the Interior”, adding an ambiguous question: “To what point?”
He also referred to the arms contracts on the agenda of Sarkozy’s visit. Takieddine notably mentioned the "protection of borders carried out by the French security pole led by Sagem and the ‘refit' of the Mirages, Sukhois (170 in all)". Armaments deals of the sort would in theory normally be managed by the French Ministry of Defence rather than the Ministry of the Interior.
'I want to protect my wife and children'
Doctor Didier Grosskopf and Jean-Charles Brisard are both close to Jean-François Copé, the current head of the ruling UMP party. Copé, a former budget minister under President Jacques Chirac, and who served as spokesman for Chirac's government, was also a friend of Ziad Takieddine (see Mediapart’s report on their relationship here).
It was Copé’s closeness to Takieddine that led to Grosskopf’s initial involvement with the arms dealer, after the latter suffered serious injuries in a mysterious road accident while holidaying on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, in April 2004.
Takieddine lost control at the wheel of a small four-wheel drive vehicle in which he was driving, alone. He was thrown out of the car, which left the road and came to a halt after overturning. The arms dealer was rushed to a medical clinic on Mustique, where he was diagnosed with a fractured skull and auricular haemorrhage (bleeding of the ear). The doctors immediately decided to fly him to a hospital in nearby Barbados.
Thierry Gaubert, also a friend of Takieddine and a long-serving aide to Nicolas Sarkozy, beginning when the latter was mayor of Neuilly, a wealthy suburb west of Paris, then when Sarkozy was Balladur’s budget minister between 1993 and 1995, was swiftly notified of the incident by an acquaintance who happened to be staying on Mustique at the time. Gaubert, who Judge Van Ruymbeke placed under investigation last September for his suspected role in the illegal party funding case, immediately called Copé.
Questioned last October by police investigators acting under Van Ruymbeke, Grosskopf recalled how he was then contacted by Copé: “I received a call on my mobile phone from the government spokesman, who was Jean-François Copé,” he said in his statement. “It was in my capacity as a doctor and a friend that Monsieur Copé asked me to look after an important person, namely Ziad Takieddine, who had a health problem. I accepted this mission through friendship for Monsieur Copé. An employee from the prefecture took me to the airport.”
The neurosurgeon arrived in Barbados after an emergency operation had already been performed on Takieddine. He made immediate arrangements for Takieddine to be flown back to Paris to the Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital, where Grosskopf took over his care for the period of his convalescence.
Grosskopf said that he was subsequently "sought out by Takieddine to minister to other sick people among his personal contacts". He confirmed that he "went to Libya to advise sick people […] at Monsieur Takieddine's request". It was allegedly during these visits to Tripoli that Grosskopf was entrusted with confidential information.
Contacted by Mediapart on February 29th, Grosskopf did not contest the substance of the information contained in Jean-Charles Brisard’s report. "Monsieur Brisard is a friend, I spoke with him several times about this subject, he helped me," Grosskopf said.
"But what he puts forward is his responsibility,” he added. “I do not want to be involved in this affair. I want to protect my interests, that is, my wife and my children. At one point I was followed. I was very frightened."
"This business goes beyond even the most fertile imagination," Grosskopf said. "As a citizen it upsets me. But I could not have imagined that in arranging for this gentleman to be repatriated for health reasons, it concerned the [French] Republic’s greatest corrupter."
Grosskopf said he blamed "those in power" for dragging him into the affair, but not Jean-François Copé, "who remains a friend".
In autumn 2006, Takieddine suddenly broke off contact with Grosskopf and launched a complaint against him with the Conseil de l’Ordre des Médecins, the French doctors’ regulatory body, to obtain reimbursement of medical fees paid to the neurosurgeon. Brisard conversations with the doctor, summarized in his report, were held in the midst of this conflict, on December 20th 2006. They met several times and it appears that at least one other memo was written.
Suspicions over a Libyan connection in the financing of Sarkozy’s campaign were fanned a year ago when both Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Saïf al-Islam, made sensational declarations.
Just two days before the NATO military intervention in Libya in March 2011, Saïf al-Islam made specific accusations in an interview with television channel Euronews. Asked his opinion of President Sarkozy he answered:
“Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it and we have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given assistance so that he could help them. But he’s disappointed us. Give us back our money. We have all the bank details and documents for the transfer operations and we will make everything public soon.”
Takieddine's 1.5 M-euro cash land
The ongoing judicial investigations into Takieddine’s activities fuel further suspicions. An examination of Takieddine’s offshore companies revealed the existence of secret commissions paid by Libya.
On March 5th 2011, Takieddine was arrested by customs officers at Le Bourget airport near Paris on his return from Tripoli, after they discovered he was transporting 1.5 million euros in cash. In a statement about the incident given to Judge Van Ruymbekeon November 9th last year, he said: "I went as the carrier of a message from Claude Guéant who, also, I called from there. Thinking I was doing the right thing, I came back carrying a message from Gaddafi which, given the circumstances of my ‘welcome’ when I arrived, I was unable to deliver," he said.
In a written statement given to customs officers when he was arrested, he said that the Libyan government had given him the banknotes, which covered his fees.
Brice Hortefeux is referred to in the "GEN/ NS V. MEMO DG" document concerning unofficial missions he carried out before 2007 for then-interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, in particular handling contacts with Takieddine, who in his role as an intermediary opened the doors of several Arab countries to the minister. One instance of this was when Takieddine accompanied Hortefeux to Saudi Arabia at the end of 2003 to negotiate a major contract for a border surveillance project, under the codename Miksa.
In summer 2007, Takieddine was also a key figure in the French presidency's negotiations to free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor imprisoned in Libya for allegedly conspiring to infect children with the HIV virus. The ultimately successful bid marked the Sarkozy administration's first major diplomatic coup which, in Takieddine’s own words, turned a "new page" in Franco-Libyan relations. The first sign of this was when France rolled out the red carpet for the Libyan dictator, allowing him to pitch his tent in the gardens of the Hôtel Marigny, the official residence for state visits, in December 2007.
Mediapart has published several investigations revealing the close personal relations Sarkozy’s entourage built with Takieddine, including holidays enjoyed at the arms dealer’s French Riviera villa at Cap d’Antibes.
These relations included Thierry Gaubert and Hortefeux, who police officers last September intercepted telephone conversations between Gaubert and Hortefeux revealing their concern about the progress of Judge Van Ruymbeke’s investigation into Takieddine.
In December 2011 a witness statement by Takieddine’s ex-wife Nicola Johnson also implicated Hortefeux. She said that in 2005, Hortefeux and Gaubert came to pick up a sum of money in cash at Takieddine’s home on Avenue Georges-Mandel in Paris. Hortefeux has strongly contested this but has not sought legal recourse against the allegation, contrary to his threat to do so.
In a book recently published by Takieddine called L’Ami Encombrant (‘The Embarrassing Friend’), he contested having been involved in corrupt activities. However, in a French TV current affairs programme, Complément d’Enquête, broadcast on October 11th, 2011, Takieddine was unwittingly filmed by a hidden camera saying: "I’ve got them all in the palm of my hand. I can bring them all down." To the question "whom?" he answered: "All of them."
Neither the French presidency nor Takieddine responded to Mediapart’s invitations to comment on the issues raised in this article.
For more about Ziad Takieddine, and the political funding scandal behind the Karachi Affair, click on the links to Mediapart's investigations below:
English version: Sue Landau and Graham Tearse
(Editing by Graham Tearse)