Investigators raid former Prime Minister's home

5th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 5, 2007 (AFP) - French investigators raided the home of former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday after fresh evidence came to light in a dirty tricks scandal targeting President Nicolas Sarkozy.

PARIS, July 5, 2007 (AFP) - French investigators raided the home of former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday after fresh evidence came to light in a dirty tricks scandal targeting President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Judges looking into the so-called Clearstream affair were following up new evidence that Villepin may have sought to defame Sarkozy and scupper his bid for the presidency, justice officials said.

"It's the logical next step," one source close to the investigation said.

Judges Jean-Marie d'Huy and Henri Pons visited Villepin's flat in a fashionable part of the Paris 17th arondissement late afternoon, accompanied by police and a representative of the prosecutor's office.

The new evidence against Villepin was widely leaked to the press earlier Thursday and is based on documents retrieved from the computer of retired intelligence chief Philippe Rondot.

These appear to back up claims that in 2004 Villepin encouraged the leaking of information falsely implicating the then interior minister Sarkozy in a financial scandal, justice officials said.

The documents also suggest Villepin was acting with the clear support of then president Jacques Chirac.

Both Villepin and Chirac have denied involvement in the affair, which revolves around a fake list of account-holders at the Clearstream bank of Luxembourg supposed to have benefitted from illegal commissions from arms sales.

Judges in charge of the investigation are looking into allegations that Villepin and Chirac may have tried to secretly publicise the list in order to wreck Sarkozy's presidential hopes. His relationship with the two was at the time under great strain.

Chirac, who was succeeded by Sarkozy in May, has refused to speak to the judges, arguing that in this matter he is still covered by presidential immunity.

Villepin, who also left office in May, issued a statement Thursday denouncing the new "untruthful allegations" and insisting that he "never sought to investigate or compromise any political personality in the Clearstream affair."

The new evidence consists of computer files written by Rondot in mid-2004, around the time that the fake accounts list was leaked to a judge by Jean-Louis Gergorin, then vice-president at the European defence group EADS.

In a first note dated May 26, Rondot says that Gergorin told him he had "received instructions from Dominique de Villepin and had decided to speak to the judge."

It goes on: "In an interview between Jean-Louis Gergorin and Dominique de Villepin on May 19, the latter was apparently jubilant but also concerned not to have his name appear in the affair."

In a second note dated June 30 2004, Rondot cites Imad Lahoud, the computer expert believed to have prepared the fake lists.

"According to the source Imad Lahoud, Jean-Louis Gergorin received instructions from Dominique de Villepin, which were themselves formulated by the president of the Republic, to finger Nicolas Sarkozy," the note quoted by Le Figaro reads.

Rondot had tried to delete the files from his computer, but they were recovered by experts.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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