Alleged Lebanese middleman in Pakistani sub deal hits back

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A Lebanese businessman and alleged middleman in a corruption scheme linked to the 1994 sale of French submarines to Pakistan is fighting back with several lawsuits, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Ziad Takieddine is targeting several managers of the French state-owned shipbuilder DCN and a security consultant close to ex-president Jacques Chirac for telling investigators that he was handling kickbacks tied to the deal.

"He had nothing to do with the Pakistani case. It is our determination to find out why he is being accused," said lawyer Olivier Pardo.

French investigators are looking into whether a 2002 bomb attack in Karachi that killed 11 French naval engineers was carried out in revenge for a Paris decision to cancel the bribes.

Witnesses targeted in Takieddine's lawsuits have told investigators that he was chosen by French state officials as the middleman and that he had received commissions worth four percent of the 5.4-billion-franc (830-million-euro, one-billion-dollar) contract.

Takieddine's lawsuits filed Tuesday also target various French media including the newspapers Le Monde and Liberation for reporting that the businessman was suspected of having a key role in the kickback scheme.

Takieddine himself denied the allegations during questioning by an investigating magistrate, his lawyer said.

The probe of the Pakistani kickbacks scheme has taken a new twist following allegations that some of the payments went to fund the 1995 presidential campaign of ex-prime minister Edouard Balladur.

Balladur has denied the allegations but the cloud of controversy extends to President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was Balladur's spokesman during his failed bid for the presidency. Sarkozy has also dismissed the claims as unfounded.

© 2010 AFP

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