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Édouard Balladur’s trial opens more than 25 years later

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More than twenty-five years later, the former Prime Minister Édouard Balladur is tried, from Tuesday, before the Court of Justice of the Republic for suspicions of hidden financing of his presidential campaign of 1995, one of the components of the sprawling Karachi affair.

Was there hidden financing of Édouard Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995? More than twenty-five years later, the former Prime Minister is facing justice on Tuesday, January 18, in this part of the sprawling Karachi affair.

Édouard Balladur, 91, is appearing alongside his former Minister of Defense, François Léotard, 78, for “complicity in the abuse of corporate assets”, the former Prime Minister being tried in addition for “concealing” this. offense.

The former tenant of Matignon (1993-95), eager to “face his judges and answer their questions”, will be present at the opening of his trial, said one of his lawyers, Félix de Belloy. The trial could however be suspended as soon as it opens, François Léotard having made it known that he was ill and could not be present, according to a judicial source. “He wants to defend himself, the trial is therefore likely to be delayed,” said this source.

The two former state clerks must be tried seven months after the sentencing to terms of two to five years in prison of six other protagonists, including the intermediary Ziad Takieddine, in the non-ministerial aspect of this case with multiple ramifications . The case of Édouard Balladur and François Léotard had been severed in 2014 and entrusted to the CJR, the only body empowered to judge the actions of ministers.

Illegal retrocommissions

Composed of three magistrates and twelve parliamentarians, the Court will dive, at the rate of three afternoons per week, in the presidential campaign of 1995, marked by the fratricidal war on the right between Jacques Chirac and the one who will finally decide to stand against him. , Édouard Balladur.

The latter is accused of being behind a system of illegal retrocommissions on major arms contracts with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, intended to replenish his campaign accounts. The investigation was particularly interested in the payment of 10.2 million francs (about 1.5 million euros) in one go and in cash, just after his defeat in the first round.

The defense of the former Prime Minister, who will plead the acquittal and also considers that the facts are prescribed, has always swept the “thesis” of hidden funding, maintaining that this sum came from the collection of donations and sales gadgets or T-shirts at meetings.

The investigation underlined the concomitance between the deposit of the cash and the trips of Ziad Takieddine to Geneva. He said, before retracting, having given cash to Thierry Gaubert (then a member of the cabinet of Budget Minister Nicolas Sarkozy), at the request of Nicolas Bazire, director of the Balladur campaign.

All three were heavily condemned in June by the Paris Criminal Court and appealed, like their three co-defendants, including Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, then a close collaborator of François Léotard.

The K network

According to the prosecution, the political power imposed on the international branch of the Naval Construction Directorate (DCNI) and Sofresa, two state-owned entities that sold submarines and frigates, “useless” intermediaries in these contracts, almost finalized, the “K network” (for King in reference to the King of Saudi Arabia). And this so that they then illegally return part of the money collected to the countryside, in addition to personal enrichment.

In 1995, Mr. Balladur’s campaign accounts were validated in extremis by the Constitutional Council. It was only fifteen years later that he was overtaken by investigations launched after a complaint from the families of the victims of the attack in Karachi of May 8, 2002, which had cost the lives of 15 people, including 11 French workers. the construction of submarines for the DCNI in the Pakistani port.

The investigation, which initially focused on Al-Qaeda’s trail, then moved away to explore the possible links, not yet confirmed, between the attack and the cessation of commission payments after the victory. Jacques Chirac in the 1995 presidential election. This anti-terrorist investigation is still ongoing.

With AFP

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