Both French president François Hollande and American head of state Barack Obama flew to Riyadh to pay their respects after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on January 23rd. For the French leader it was yet another journey to the Arabian kingdom that he has already twice honoured with state visits. France and the United States - and other Western countries – have stayed close diplomatically to Saudi Arabia, seeing it as a source of oil, a massive market to buy their weapons and a pivotal place to exchange key intelligence. But the flipside of this approach, write Thomas Cantaloube and Pierre Puchot, is that these countries have been trapped into supporting Saudi's own regional political games, while also backing one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Moreover, at a time when France and other nations have made fighting terrorism their international priority, elements in the Saudi kingdom are still suspected of financial links with prominent terror groups.
Judges investigating suspicions that senior politicians, including Nicolas Sarkozy, were implicated in the use of kickbacks from defence deals to illegally fund a presidential campaign have uncovered a dramatic new piece of evidence. The document, published here by Mediapart, shows that as budget minister Sarkozy signed a letter backing the complex set-up that led to the illegal payments. The document, which dates from 1994, contradicts claims from the former president that he had no involvement in the affair. Its discovery coincides with moves to get Sarkozy and two other former ministers investigated by a special court that handles allegations of offences committed by ministers in the line of duty. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.
A key suspect in a major investigation into the French illegal political funding scandal known as the ‘Karachi Affair’ is also wanted for suspected money laundering by police in Spain, where he had close links with former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar and King Juan Carlos, Mediapart can reveal. Companies belonging to Abdul Rahman Al Assir (pictured), a Lebanese-born businessman and arms intermediary, received millions of euros in commissions from French weapons sales that are at the heart of corruption scam allegations implicating President Sarkozy and his close entourage. Despite an international arrest warrant issued against him, El Assir is still on the run. Mediapart, meanwhile, tracked him down in Geneva. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report on the phantom witness that some are hoping will remain just so.
Fresh evidence has emerged implicating Nicolas Sarkozy's involvement in two controversial 1994 arms deals that lie at the centre of an investigation into suspected illegal political party financing via French weapons sales abroad. Mediapart has obtained access to an official document referring to Sarkozy's approval, when he was budget minister, of financial arrangements surrounding the sale to Saudi Arabia of three French frigates, a deal in which two French-imposed intermediaries were paid the equivalent of more than 200 million euros. Meanwhile, a key witnessin the investigation has said the then-budget minister had "necessarily" given his authorisation for the creation of a Luxembourg-based company set up to handle the payment of commissions paid out in a separate, simultaneous sale of French submarines to Pakistan.Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.
Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, at the centre of what has become known as the ‘Karachi affair', involving secret political funding from commissions paid in French weapons sales abroad, has given a detailed interview to French TV news channel BFMTV (photo), in which he appeared to address a warning to President Nicolas Sarkozy, now increasingly implicated in the case: "I want to see the president, he has an interest, I think, and France has an interest, that he receives me for at least 15 minutes."
A Paris magistrate investigating suspected illegal political party funding in France has obtained documents (photo), extracts of which are exclusively published here by Mediapart, which amount to the most significant evidence yet indicating that former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur's presidential election campaign may have been partly funded via French weapons sales abroad. While the events date from the 1990s, they lie at the heart of what has become known as the Karachi Affair, a fast-developing corruption scandal implicating current French President Nicolas Sarkozy and several of his senior political allies. Fabrice Arfi reports.