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Monday, May 20, 2024

The scandal that dogged Zardari might swallow French ex-PM

Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur will stand trial over allegations that kickbacks from an arms deal with Pakistan helped fund his failed 1995 presidential bid, France’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.

The Court of Justice of the Republic, a tribunal dedicated to hearing cases of ministerial misconduct, ordered the 90-year-old to face charges alongside former defence minister Francois Leotard, 77, said attorney general Francois Molin.

Balladur was charged in May 2017 with “complicity in misuse of corporate assets and concealment” over the sale of submarines to Pakistan in 1994 when he was premier and hoping to become president.

The case is one of several high-profile corruption cases ensnaring senior politicians in France, chiefly from the conservative camp.

The claims came to light during an investigation into a 2002 bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, which targeted a bus transporting French engineers — allegedly in revenge for non-payment of bribes.


Fifteen people were killed, including 11 engineers working on the submarine contract.

The Al-Qaeda extremist network was initially suspected of the attack, but the focus later shifted to the arms deal, with investigators probing whether the bombing was revenge for the non-payment of bribes secretly promised to Pakistani officials.

Media reports later said that the whole chain of events started when Jacques Chirac beat Balladur to the Presidency in 1995, he stopped the bribes from being transferred to authorities in Pakistan. The amounts were being transferred to two people: 30% to a Mr. Amir Lodhi and 70% to a Mr. Asif Ali Zardari.

At the time he was charged, Balladur said he would challenge the charges as they failed to take into account that his campaign spending had been vetted by the authorities and that the alleged wrongdoing dated back more than two decades.

The case is one of several high-profile corruption cases ensnaring senior politicians in France, chiefly from the conservative camp.

Read more: India and France set to intimidate China in Indian Ocean

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who had served as Balladur’s budget minister, is also embroiled in several scandals, including suspected corruption involving a judge.

Sarkozy was due to hear later Tuesday whether he will be charged in a separate campaign financing case.

Did Zardari receive a ‘commission’ too?

The Agosta submarine contract was signed between the two countries on September 21st, 1994 when Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari was also a member of her cabinet was reportedly in-charge of all foreign deals done during the government. His alleged under-the-table dealings had earned him the name of Mr. 10%.

MediaPart, a French news outlet claimed in 2011 that definite proof of Zardari taking kickbacks in the Agosta deal had been found. Mr. Zardari was President at the time. Although a total volume was never claimed, Mediapart claimed that the first installment of kickbacks alone was worth more than 9 million euros.

The case has still not reached its conclusion. Mr. Zardari is currently in custody of National Accountability Bureau in a fake accounts case.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk