Former French minister confirms Pakistan arms sale kickbacks

17th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

French former defence minister Charles Millon confirmed on Wednesday the existence of kickbacks on arms deals with Pakistan, whose cancellation allegedly resulted in a deadly 2002 Karachi bombing.

Millon told investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke about the kickbacks during a hearing on Wednesday, a source close to the matter told AFP.

Former president Jacques Chirac tasked Millon with ending kickbacks on arms contracts shortly after he came to power in 1995.

Chirac asked Millon "to proceed with revising arms contracts and to verify as much as possible if there were signs of the existence of kickbacks," the source said.

"For the Pakistani contract, looking at the secret service reports and analyses carried out by the (defence) ministry services, one has the absolute conviction that there were kickbacks," media quoted Millon as telling the judge.

Millon spoke in the context of investigations and legal proceedings linked to the killing of 11 French engineers in the bombing.

Van Ruymbeke is investigating claims that a company set up with President Nicolas Sarkozy's approval channelled money from the arms deal commissions to fund political activities in France.

French investigators have since 2008 been examining allegations that the cancelling of commissions for one of the arms deals prompted the attack that killed 11 French engineers and three others in Pakistan eight years ago.

The state prosecutor, who unlike an investigating magistrate is subordinate to the justice ministry and therefore the government, has previously said that there were no grounds for a corruption investigation.

French media have previously quoted Luxembourg police as saying that Sarkozy oversaw the establishment in Luxembourg of two companies, Heine and Eurolux, when he was budget minister under former prime minister Edouard Balladur.

Balladur and Sarkozy, who served as spokesman for Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign, have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of illegal party funding.

Balladur lost the 1995 presidential election to Chirac, who after Millon's investigation cancelled the commissions.

© 2010 AFP

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