France extradites ex-German minister

20th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

AUGSBURG, Germany, Jan 20 (AFP) - A former German junior defence minister, jailed in France since July, was extradited to Germany on Thursday to face corruption charges over an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

AUGSBURG, Germany, Jan 20 (AFP) - A former German junior defence minister, jailed in France since July, was extradited to Germany on Thursday to face corruption charges over an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Holger Pfahls, who served as state secretary for defence from 1987 to 1992 under then chancellor Helmut Kohl, was taken to a prison in Kaisheim, southern Germany, after being handed over to German authorities at the Forbach border crossing in northeastern France, officials said.

He is due to face trial in Augsburg, southern Germany, in late March or early April, prosecutors said.

His lawyer, Volker Hoffmann, said Pfahls was "capable of being held in custody and standing trial", despite various health problems, including an eye problem which required surgery as soon as possible.

The 62-year-old is suspected of taking nearly EUR 2million (USD 2.6 million) in bribes for the sale of 36 armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia in 1991, and failing to declare the earnings.

Prosecutors believe Pfahls pocketed the funds during the 1991 Gulf War for helping German industrial giant Thyssen obtain the contract.

After five years on the run, Pfahls was arrested in Paris by French and German police in July last year.

He initially opposed his extradition to Germany but later relented, claiming the conditions at the Sante prison in the French capital were "untenable and unacceptable", according to Hoffmann.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin signed the extradition order on December 15.

The trial could shed new light on campaign financing scandals from the Kohl era.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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