Sarkozy aide admits 'mistake' in dirty cash affair

27th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

An advisor to the French president on Africa, admitted to police he was "mistaken" in naming Senegal's president and his son as being involved in a dirty cash scandal, his lawyer said Monday.

Eric Dupond-Moretti told AFP that his client, Robert Bourgi, "told police that he was mistaken concerning (Senegal's president) Abdoulaye Wade and his son" Karim Wade.

Bourgi, a long-time unofficial point man between President Nicolas Sarkozy'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.

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

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.

All those accused by Bourgi have denied the allegations, and Wade last week threatened like many of the others to file a defamation lawsuit against Bourgi.

But his lawyer said Monday that on Thursday his questioning by police was "very precise".

"He admitted that he made a mistake. He stated the names of African heads of state who fed the electoral campaigns in France and he said that regarding the Wades, the father and son, he was wrong," Dupond-Moretti said on RFI radio.

He added that Bourgi stood by all his other accusations of dirty cash payments by African leaders to French politicians -- the Wades were the only error.

Bourgi had 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 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.

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

© 2011 AFP

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