Sarkozy allies drawn into Karachi kickbacks affair

PARIS Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:52pm IST

Thierry Gaubert, a former aide to France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, arrives by car at the headquarters of the financial investigation police in Paris, September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Thierry Gaubert, a former aide to France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, arrives by car at the headquarters of the financial investigation police in Paris, September 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Related Topics

PARIS (Reuters) - A friend of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was arrested and another placed under investigation on Wednesday over their possible role in a corruption case linked to arms sales and a deadly bombing in Pakistan, lawyers and police sources said.

The development brings the so-called "Karachi Affair" back into the spotlight seven months before a presidential election that polls show Sarkozy would lose if it were to be held today.

Thierry Gaubert, a friend and advisor to Sarkozy for many years, was placed under investigation on suspicion that he carried cash kickbacks from the sale of submarines to Pakistan back to France in suitcases.

Nicolas Bazire, who was a witness to Sarkozy's wedding with Carla Bruni in 2008, was arrested and being held in police custody over allegations that he received delivery of the kickbacks from Gaubert in Paris.

Both Bazire and Gaubert deny the accusations.

"He disputes anything to do with political financing," Francois Esclatine, a lawyer for Gaubert, told Reuters.

Their legal troubles mark a twist in a complex case that aims to determine if a 2002 bomb attack in Karachi in which 11 French workers were killed was reprisal against France over its decision to stop paying commissions to Pakistan in arms sales.

It also envelops French politics because judges suspect that kickbacks helped to finance the presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur, a conservative and former prime minister, in 1995. Bazire was chief of staff for Balladur, who denies the accusations.

Victims' families have called for Sarkozy -- who was budget minister under Balladur and spokesman for his campaign -- to answer questions about the kickbacks and an elaborate financial setup allegedly designed to ferry home the money.

Sarkozy's office brushed off the accusations in November 2010, saying they "concerned him in no way", and the president is immune from prosecution while in office.

When questioned about the kickbacks in late 2010 Sarkozy erupted at journalists, telling a group in Lisbon that linking him to the case was as absurd as him calling one of them a paedophile without any proof.

"It is clear that if Nicolas Sarkozy was not currently president of the republic, he would be heard because the paths lead to his responsibility," said Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the victims' families.

(Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Nicolas Bertin, writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Robert Woodward)

FILED UNDER:

Sony Cyber Attack

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ten Years On

Ten Years On

10 years on, tsunami warning stumbles at the "last mile".  Full Article 

Exit Polls

Exit Polls

BJP unlikely to form Jammu & Kashmir govt - polls.  Full Article 

Forceful Conversions

Forceful Conversions

BJP distances itself from religious conversions.  Full Article 

Hopeful Dhoni

Hopeful Dhoni

India's new vintage nearly ready, says Dhoni.  Full Article 

Photo

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Ali Hospitalized

Ali Hospitalized

Boxing great Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia.  Full Article 

Going International

Going International

Bollywood’s Priyanka Chopra sets sights on American TV.  Full Article 

India This Week

India This Week

Some of our best photos from this week.   Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage