President Mitterrand's son faces trial

6th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) - The son of the late French president Francois Mitterrand and a former interior minister are among 42 defendants who will stand trial in an "arms-to-Angola" case, officials said Friday.

PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) - The son of the late French president Francois Mitterrand and a former interior minister are among 42 defendants who will stand trial in an "arms-to-Angola" case, officials said Friday.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand has been charged with bribe-taking in connection with the sale of 790 million dollars (590 million euros) in arms from 1993 to 2000 to the southern African country when it was in middle of a protracted civil war that ultimately left half a million dead.

Judge Philippe Courroye signed the indictment for the trial late on Thursday. It also cites former Mitterrand adviser Jacques Attali, former interior minister Charles Pasqua, thriller writer Paul-Loup Sulitzer and member of parliament Georges Fenech as defendants.

Dubbed "Angolagate" by the press, the long-running judicial investigation has cast a shadow over many senior French government officials, especially those in office during Francois Mitterrand's two-term Socialist presidency from 1981 to 1995.

It revolves around illegal arms sales negotiated through businessman Pierre Falcone and his associate Arcady Gaydamak, a Russian-born billionnaire, to shore up the forces of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in his war against UNITA rebels.

The pair, who are among the 42 named in the indictment, were allegedly involved in the sale of tanks, helicopters, weapons and ammunition, as well as six warships.

Falcone, the boss of weapons firm Brenco International, and Gaydamak, who allegedly served as go-betweens for the arms deliveries from eastern Europe, are facing charges of influence-peddling and illegal arms sales.

Falcone has since 2003 enjoyed diplomatic immunity because he is a UNESCO representative in Angola. But the French justice system does not recognise this immunity.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, who was an adviser on African affairs at the Elysee presidential palace from 1986 to 1992, is accused of "complicity in illegal trade and embezzlement" and allegedly took bribes worth 2.6 million dollars between 1997 and 1999.

The charges against him state that he had a "determining role" in putting Falcone in touch with the Angolan regime.

He was in 2004 found guilty of tax fraud and sentenced to a 30-month suspended jail sentence.

Pasqua served twice as France's interior minister -- from 1986 to 1988 and again from 1993 to 1995. He is best known for pushing through a series of anti-immigration laws.

French prosecutors last week requested that the 42 including Mitterrand be put on trial in a 500-page summary of a case that dates back to 2000. The trial will not begin before next year.

Angola this week celebrated five years since the end of its three-decade long civil war, with the government hailing the era of peace as an opportunity to tackle the oil-rich nation's deep-rooted poverty.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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