Fillon benefactor reveals 'pressure' for his silence and why his memoirs are on hold

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Lawyer Robert Bourgi, 72, is a veteran figure of “la Françafrique”, the once-rife secret and corrupt network of relations between successive French and despotic African governments, which included the illegal funding of French politicians and parties in return for favours and protection. His name resurfaced last month in the scandal-hit presidential election campaign of conservative candidate François Fillon, when Bourgi revealed it was he who offered Fillon two expensive tailor-made suits, raising further questions over Fillon’s probity and political independence. In this interview from Beirut, where he is sitting out the rest of the election campaign, Bourgi gave Mediapart his version of his relationship with Fillon, who he says asked him to deny being a benefactor, and lifts the lid on the murky practices in French politics. His account offers an insight into decades of political corruption.

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Lawyer Robert Bourgi says today that he retired ten years ago from active involvement in the corrupt and secretive system known as la Françafrique, in which he served for more than three decades as an advisor and go-between for French-speaking Africa's richest despots with the rightwing Gaullist movement and its conservative successors.