Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine is a key figure in what has become known as the ‘Karachi affair', involving alleged secret political funding from commissions paid in French weapons sales abroad. A judge leading an independent probe into the suspected scam last month placed Takieddine and two of President Nicolas Sarkozy's close friends and aides under formal investigation in the case. In a series of investigations that began this summer, Mediapart has revealed Takieddine's unusual role as intermediary and advisor in a number of French weapons sales, and his close relationship with several of President Sarkozy's inner circle of friends and advisors. Documents obtained by Mediapart now disclose how the arms dealer was involved in arranging for the French presidency the services of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to free former hostage Ingrid Betancourt (photo) from her FARC captors in Colombia. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.