A Paris court has handed prison sentences to six men found guilty of organising a vast political funding scam involving kickbacks on French weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The kickbacks, secretly transferred in cash sums, were to finance former French prime minister Édouard Balladur’s 1995 presidential election campaign. The men, who were on Monday given jail terms of between three and five years, include former minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Nicolas Bazire, a senior executive at luxury goods group LVMH. The verdicts end the financial chapter of what has become known as the “Karachi Affair”, an ongoing judicial saga that centres on the murders of 11 French naval engineers in Pakistan in 2002. Karl Laske and Fabrice Arfi report on the conclusions of the sentencing magistrates.
France joined Germany in announcing this weekend a suspension of weapons sales to Turkey for as long as Ankara continues with its military invasion of a neighbouring part of northern Syria, a ban which the French defence minister said concerned 'war materials that could be used in the context of this offensive'.
A senior French civil servant has told a corruption investigation that former president Nicolas Sarkozy personally authorized the payment of secret commission payments from French armament contracts which are suspected of being used to illegally finance political activity. Mediapart can reveal that Patricia Laplaud, a former budget ministry financial supervisor of armaments sales gave a statement to the investigation, led by two Paris-based judges, in which she says that Sarkozy, when budget minister in 1994, ordered the secret cash transfers despite opposition from his ministerial advisors. Part of the sums were subsequently withdrawn in cash from Swiss bank accounts by Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who continued to serve until 2009 as an intermediary in weapons contracts organized by Sarkozy’s staff. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.
Amid continuing speculation over the whereabouts of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Mediapart has obtained exclusive details of a highly sophisticated ‘stealth' four-wheel drive armoured vehicle sold by France to Libya in 2008 for the dictator's safe transport. The modified Mercedes can "instantaneously detect over 2,000 threats" according to French company Bull which developed the vehicle's security system (illustration) as part of a controversial weapons and security contract negotiated with Tripoli by President Nicolas Sarkozy's staff. The deal included equipment presented as "an inviolable solution to the Anglo-American espionage system". Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report on a deal that may still be ensuring mobile refuge for on-the-run Gaddafi.