The trial of former French Prime Minister Édouard Balladur on charges of taking kickbacks in an arms deal in the 1990s begins on Tuesday. This case is known as ‘Karachi Affair’.
Ninety-one-year-old Balladur has been named one of France’s most prominent politicians to face corruption charges, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
The trial of former Prime Minister Balladur will begin on Tuesday at the Court of Justice in Paris. Corruption cases against French ministers are usually heard in this court.
Along with Balador, his former defence minister Francois Leotard is also accused in the Karachi affair. However, it is not yet clear whether he will be able to appear in court due to illness.
What are the charges?
The two leaders are accused of “misusing corporate assets” to sell submarines to Pakistan and warships to Saudi Arabia between 1993 and 1995. At the time, when Balladur was prime minister in the final years of Francois Mitterrand’s presidency. The charges against the two leaders were made in 2017.
The deal involved a bribe of 13 million francs (ً 330 million). It is estimated that about 10 million francs were used in Balladur’s 1995 unsuccessful presidential campaign against Chirac.
The corruption was uncovered during an investigation into a major bombing in Karachi in 2002. The bomber struck shortly afternoon in front of a bus carrying French engineers. Fifteen people were killed in the attack, including 11 submarine contract engineers.
The al-Qaeda network was initially blamed for the attack. However, the probe was later shifted to the arms deal, as investigators felt that retaliation against President Chirac’s decision to suspend the payment of the arms deal after Balladur’s defeat in the presidential election As it was attacked.
Corruption in French politics
Former Prime Minister Balladur is also accused of directing then-Finance Minister Sarkozy’s ministry to provide state guarantees for “poor arms deals” because he allegedly took bribes in the deal.
Investigators say Ziad Takieddine, a Lebanese man. The French broker had collected bribes during Balladur’s election campaign.
He fled to Lebanon last year after a Paris court sentenced Takieddine and another broker, Abdel-Rahman al-Assir, to five years in prison in a “Karachi affair” case.
The same court sentenced Balladur’s former campaign manager Nicolas Bazire was given a three-year sentence by the same court, as did Leotard’s adviser Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. Sarkozy’s adviser and a former executive director of a state-owned maritime company were sentenced to two years in prison. All of them have appealed against the court’s decision.
Takieddine had told the court in 2013 that he had secretly funded Balladur’s campaign but withdrew his claim six years later. Last November, Takieddine also retracted his claim that he had hired Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to help Sarkozy in his successful presidential campaign in 2006 and 2007 altogether. Millions of dollars were given.
Sarkozy denies the allegations, but the case is still under investigation.