Former French Prime Minister Édouard Balladur appeared this Tuesday before the Court of Justice of the Republic in Paris, accused of alleged illegal financing of his failed 1995 presidential campaign. This court is the only competent court to try members of the Government for acts committed in the exercise of their functions.
Balladur, 91, sits in the dock, alongside Defense Minister François Léotard, 78, to answer charges of embezzlement. The former prime minister is also on trial for having allegedly benefited from this crime. The Prosecutor’s Office considers that Balladur illegally financed his presidential campaign 25 years ago thanks to money from commissions paid for arms contracts signed by the French government in the 1990s.
The conservative politician was prime minister between 1993 and 1995 during the second cohabitation government of the socialist François Mitterrand. In 1995, it appeared to the presidential elections, to which the French right arrived divided. Balladur was eliminated in the first round. Jacques Chirac, his great rival on the right, won the elections by defeating the socialist Lionel Jospin.
- Irregular payments.
The money came from commissions for arms contracts signed by the Government
- Extensive plot.
Six people involved in this case have already been sentenced to two to five years in prison
Balladur and Léotard are accused of being involved in a commission system related to the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia when they were in government. The Prosecutor’s Office believes that Balladur’s presidential campaign received about 2 million euros, from the commissions paid for these arms contracts.
Although Balladur’s presidential campaign dates back more than 25 years, this corruption case came to light during the investigation of the Karachi, Pakistan, attack in May 2002. Fifteen people were killed in a car bomb attack on the bus that transported them. Among those killed were eleven employees of the French military shipyards that built the submarines sold by France to Pakistan. At first, it was suspected that Al-Qaida, very active at the time, could be behind the attack, but the terrorist organization did not claim responsibility for the attack.
A possible revenge
During the investigation of the financial part of the ‘Karachi case’, the French investigating judges privileged another clue: the attack could have been a revenge of Pakistani officials for not having received their share of the commissions promised by the Balladur government. This track has not been confirmed so far.
At that time, the payment of commissions to intermediaries who participated in obtaining contracts abroad was considered legal in France. Chirac put an end to these practices.
Six people involved in this case were already sentenced in October 2019 by the Paris Correctional Court to sentences of between two and five years in prison. Among them is the French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, who fled justice and is currently in Lebanon.
Takieddine’s name also appears in another important judicial dossier that has not yet been tried: the alleged Libyan financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. This dark businessman claimed that he had acted as an intermediary between Sarkozy and the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but a few months ago he withdrew the accusations. Sarkozy denies receiving Libyan money to finance his campaign.