French ex-PM charged over murky Pakistani deals
Balladur joins other senior French figures to face prosecution on corruption charges, including ex-president Jacques Chirac, Chirac’s successor Nicolas Sarkozy and two other former prime ministers.
Balladur – of the Gaullist party which is now known as the Republicans – would be tried by the Court of Justice of the Republic, a tribunal dedicated to cases of ministerial misconduct, said attorney general Francois Molins.
Balladur is accused of complicity in the misuse of funds from the defence groups DCN-I and Sofresa for ordering his government to guarantee lossmaking or inadequate contracts and using commissions on weapons sales of around €1.5 million to finance his campaign.
Balladur and his defence minister Francois Leotard, 77, were charged in 2017 with “complicity in misuse of corporate assets” over the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia when Balladur was prime minister between 1993 and 1995.
Balladur is alleged to have benefited from part of the €2 million from an order for French Agosta submarines by the government of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s then prime minister.
The cash is alleged to have funded Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995 against Chirac. Balladur denies the allegations and says the funds came from the sale of T-shirts and other merchandise.
A probe in Karachi opened in 2002 after a bomb killed 15 people, including 11 French naval engineers who were working on the submarines in the city. A French investigation found the blast was carried out on the orders of the Pakistani military, apparently in retaliation for a decision by Chirac to stop payments of commissions to Pakistani contacts.
Chirac had allegedly cut the payments in revenge for Balladur betraying him over the 1995 presidential bid. Balladur’s campaign manager was Sarkozy, who was then budget minister in his government.
Sarkozy, 64, has been named in a Luxembourg police probe as a participant in the Karachi bombing but he has not been charged. In 2014 Sarkozy denied allegations that kickbacks in the submarine agreement had financed Balladur’s campaign.
A parliamentary inquiry in 2012 said €80 million in commissions was paid by DCN, France’s naval shipyards company, to agents.
An appeal court this week ruled that Sarkozy must stand trial for alleged campaign finance fraud from 2012.
Picture credit: Wikimedia