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Former French Prime Minister Édouard Balladur has gone on trial in the Court of Justice of the Republic in Paris, over accusations that he’d financed his 1995 presidential bid with illegal kickbacks from arms deals.
Balladur, 91, joins a long list of senior French politicians pursued for alleged financial wrongdoing, including former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.
The conservative former prime minister is appearing before the judicial tribunal charged with complicity in misuse of corporate assets and with concealment over the ‘Karachi Affair’: Pakistan submarine deal scandal.
Investigators say that cash deposits in Balladur’s campaign fund coincided with trips to Switzerland by Ziad Takieddine, a Lebanese-French intermediary who has long been active in French right-wing circles. Takieddine fled to Lebanon last June after a Paris court sentenced him and another middleman, Abdul Rahman el-Assir, to five years in prison over their role in the Karachi affair kickbacks.France24
The investigation began after a 2002 bombing in Karachi killed 11 French engineers and four others. While it was initially viewed as a terrorist attack, authorities shifted focus, believing it could’ve been revenge for President Jacques Chirac’s decision to halt payments of secret arms-deal commissions.
Balladur, the oldest living former French prime minister, has been accused of approving the payments and of receiving kickbacks totaling 13 million francs (An equivalent of $3.3 million today).
Three ex-government officials have already been found guilty in June in relation to the incident, alongside three others.
The former political leader has rejected claims of illegality, arguing that the millions of francs came from the sale of T-shirts and other campaign memorabilia.
Also in the dock will be his former defense minister Francois Léotard, 78, though his presence at the trial’s opening is uncertain because of illness.
Léotard is accused of having created an “opaque network” of intermediaries for the contracts signed with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Balladur will appear in court Tuesday “to face his judges and answer their questions,” his lawyer Félix de Belloy said.
The two men were charged in 2017 with “complicity in the misuse of corporate assets” over the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia between 1993 and 1995, when Balladur was prime minister in the final years of François Mitterrand’s presidency.