Former top French government aides sent for trial in arms kickbacks scam

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At the end of an investigation that has lasted more than three years, six people, including a former minister and the current managing director of luxury goods firm LVMH, have been sent for trial for their alleged roles in a gigantic political funding scam that centred on secret cash kickbacks from French weapons sales abroad.  The case, one the biggest political corruption scandals to have emerged in France in recent decades, yet threatens to engulf the political masters of those accused - former French prime minister Édouard Balladur, his defence minister François Léotard, and Balladur’s budget minister, later French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Fabrice Arfi reports.       

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Investigating magistrates Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Roger Le Loire on Thursday sent six men for trial on charges related to a vast illegal funding scam that saw millions of euros siphoned off in kickbacks paid from official French weapons contracts with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The cash, which the judicial investigation has established was mostly carried in suitcases to France from Swiss banking centre Geneva, was allegedly used to fund the presidential election campaign of conservative politician Édouard Balladur, who mounted his bid while prime minister.