Sarkozy shrugs off storm over luxury holiday

9th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

VALLETTA, May 9, 2007 (AFP) - France's president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy shrugged off a political controversy Wednesday over a holiday on a luxury yacht belonging to a billionaire friend, saying taxpayers were not funding it.

VALLETTA, May 9, 2007 (AFP) - France's president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy shrugged off a political controversy Wednesday over a holiday on a luxury yacht belonging to a billionaire friend, saying taxpayers were not funding it.

Out for a jog on the Mediterranean island of Malta, Sarkozy told journalists that his trip would "not cost taxpayers a single centime", adding that billonaire businessman Vincent Bollore was a friend of 20 years standing.

The president-elect flew to Malta with his wife Cecilia and their 10-year-old son Louis on Monday to relax aboard the 60-metre (200-foot) Paloma after his weekend election triumph over Socialist Segolene Royal.

"I've known Mr Bollore for 20 years. Mr Bollore invited me onto his boat, I don't see why there is a controversy. I have no intention of hiding myself away, of lying, or apologising," Sarkozy told journalists.

He said had never accepted any of Bollore's earlier invitations until now and said he believed the French people were "able to distinguish between politicking and the reality of things."

However, the holiday quickly drew flak from political opponents who saw in it bad taste.

"Is it normal that a future president gets his holidays sponsored by rich people who have everything to gain from the favours of power?" asked Socialist deputy Jean-Marie Le Guen.

"What causes a problem is the style of the holiday, the fact that he is on the boat of a rich businessman and we don't know today if the Republic is paying for the trip," said Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande and partner of Sarkozy's defeated rival Segolene Royal.

Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) defended his action however.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former right wing prime minister, said Sarkozy deserved the holiday and that he only starts work on May 16 when he takes over from President Jacques Chirac.

"After five difficult years, Nicolas Sarkozy owed three days of exceptional happiness to his family before five years of labour to the exclusive service of the French people," Raffarin said on French radio.

French newspapers noted what one called Sarkozy's "immoderate taste for super luxury."

"A way of showing-off money that recalls Silvio Berlusconi," the billionaire former Italian prime minister who never let office hinder his high-flying lifestyle, concluded La Republique des Pyrenees.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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