Investigations

  • The plan for Gaddafi to help France free Ingrid Betancourt

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    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.

  • The arms dealer and his 'friendly' services for UMP leader Copé

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    Documents obtained by Mediapart show that the head of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, Jean-François Copé, enjoyed more than what he maintains are purely amicable relations with a key suspect in the illegal political funding investigation in which members of the president's close entourage are implicated. For despite the UMP secretary-general's public claims that he "never had relations of a professional nature" with Ziad Takieddine, Mediapart can reveal that the Paris-based arms dealer paid for a visit for Copé to Lebanon, in which he organized a programme of meetings with the Lebanese prime minister and other senior political and business figures. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • French IT group Bull horned by Libyan internet espionage deal

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    Amesys, a subsidiary of French IT company Bull, which provided former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi with technology to spy on emails and chat forums, has threatened former employees with legal action in a bid to stop them revealing to the media further details of the deal. In the negotiations to secure the contract, sealed with the Gaddafi regime in 2007, the company, operating under its former name i2e, delivered Tripoli with a sample of its internet spying capabilities in the form of eavesdropped personal messages exchanged by staff at a Paris university. The deal with Libya was one of several brokered by arms dealer and intermediary Ziad Takieddine, and enjoyed the backing of the then-French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • Senior Sarkozy aide pointed by scam probe evidence leaks

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    Mediapart has obtained new information that further suggests a key suspect in an investigation into the illegal political funding scandal, known as the Karachi Affair, was given confidential details of evidence from the enquiry by one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's closest aides, former interior minister Brice Hortefeux (pictured). The fresh twist in the affair counters earlier statements by Hortefeux denying that he had had illegal access to the investigating file and had passed on secret details of a witness statement to Thierry Gaubert, a former advisor to Sarkozy now placed under formal investigation for suspected embezzlement. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • French judge finds key evidence in illegal funding probe

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    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.

  • British divorcee becomes key witness in French political funding scandal

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    A British woman has become the key witness in the ongoing judicial investigation into suspected illegal political funding in France from weapons sales abroad, and which is now engulfing the French presidency in a scandal that threatens Nicolas Sarkozy's future. Mediapart can reveal here exclusive extracts from testimony given to police by Nicola Johnson, who was divorced earlier this month from Paris-based arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, currently under investigation for his role as a principle intermediary in the suspected scam. Her statement details how:

    • her former husband established extraordinary close relationships with senior French politicians, including the funding of lavish holidays for ministers.
    • Takieddine, who Mediapart has already revealed pays no tax on his 40 million-euro wealth in France where he is fiscally domiciled, apparently escaped a tax control last year after the intervention of a "higher authority".
  • 'Everyone's in the merde': the secret cash funding scandal shaking down the house Sarkozy built

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    Thierry Gaubert © Reuters Thierry Gaubert © Reuters

    After a week of startling developments, the French presidency was this weekend engulfed by yet more revelations over the illegal political party funding scandal dubbed as Karachi-gate, involving secret cash payments siphoned off from French weapons sales abroad, notably to Pakistan, which implicates both the French president and his close political entourage. Two of Nicolas Sarkozy's longstanding political servitors, Nicolas Bazire and Thierry Gaubert (photo), are now under official investigation over their alleged role in the affair, which includes the transport to Paris of suitcases stuffed with cash from a Swiss bank vault. Meanwhile, presidential advisor Brice Hortefeux, one of Sarkozy's closest friends, has been caught by phone taps informing Gaubert, while he was in police custody, of damaging statements made by his estranged wife, Princess Hélène of Yugoslavia. In this report on the latest developments in the case, Mediapart exclusively reveals excerpts of what Gaubert told the police, along with the official transcript of a phone conversation in which his daughter speaks of Sarkozy, Hortefeux and other senior officials as being "in the shit". Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • The French-built stealth offroader that may be hiding Gaddafi

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    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.

  • Arms dealer probe brings illegal funding scandal closer to Sarkozy

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     © dr © dr

    Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine (photo), who enjoys longstanding close personal and professional links to ranking French presidential staff and ministers past and present, was on Wednesday formally placed under investigation - a French legal move that precedes official charges - for "aiding and abetting the misuse of company assets" and "receiving" the proceeds, during his role as an intermediary in a controversial weapons sale to Pakistan. The move is highly embarrassing for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, pointing a finger directly at both him and his entourage all of whom are now engulfed in a scandal of suspected illegal party funding involving massive secret kickbacks from a series of official arms deals. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.

  • Divorce court freezes arms broker’s assets

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    Ziad Takieddine Ziad Takieddine

    In a series of exclusive reports that began in July, Mediapart has revealed the long-standing close links between France-based businessman and arms dealer Ziad Takieddine and the inner circle of advisers and aides surrounding Nicolas Sarkozy, before and after he became French president. Here, Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske reveal how the businessman's financial and property assets have been frozen ahead of his imminent divorce and assess what the implications are for the investigation into the Karachi affair.