Senegal's Wade to sue over French kickback claims: aide

20th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade plans to file a lawsuit for defamation against an Africa adviser at the French presidency who named him in a dirty cash scandal, an aide said Tuesday.

The lawsuit will be filed "this week in Paris and Dakar", said a close aide to Wade, whose son Karim was also implicated by Franco-Lebanese adviser Robert Bourgi and is filing a suit of his own.

Bourgi, a long-time unofficial point man between France's Elysee palace and the regimes in former African colonies, rocked French politics earlier this month with a raft of allegations on illicit cash handouts.

Insisting he was coming forward because he wanted a "clean France", Bourgi said he took part in kickback payments between 1995 and 2005 involving former president Jacques Chirac and his former aide Dominique de Villepin, among others. Villepin served as prime minister from May 2005 to May 2007.

Bourgi on September 11 and 12 alleged through several media that leaders of former French colonies had given $20 million (14.6 million euros) in payoffs to Chirac and Villepin.

Together with the presidents of Gabon, Burkina Faso, Congo and Ivory Coast, Wade and his son were among those alleged to have handed over briefcases stuffed with cash in return for France turning a blind eye to autocratic rule and rights violations.

Bourgi said in an interview to the Senegalese daily L'Observateur published on September 12 that Karim Wade had "handed over 500 million CFA francs (760,000 euros, one million dollars) to Villepin in front of me."

Villepin was then president Jacques Chirac's top aide.

Karim Wade denied the allegations the following day: "I vehemently deny these astonishing claims, which are nothing but a figment of his imagination," he said in a statement.

The state prosecutor in Paris has announced the opening of a preliminary investigation to hear claims by Bourgi, who acknowledges that he has no material evidence to support his allegations.

Villepin is a possible candidate in France's presidential elections, which are nine months away. The 85-year-old Wade is seeking a controversial third term in Senegalese presidential polls due in February.

In July, Bourgi caused an uproar in Senegal by accusing Karim Wade of having the previous month asked French troops stationed in the country to intervene to crack down on demonstrators protesting against frequent power cuts.

Wade strongly denied the allegation, which was also dismissed by the Senegalese presidency.

© 2011 AFP

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