Senegal, Congo deny Chirac-era kickbacks

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Senegal and Congo-Brazzaville on Tuesday denied allegations made by an influential French political adviser that they paid large sums of money in cash to the French presidency.

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

Bourgi, insisting he was coming forward now because he wanted a "clean France", said he took part in kickback payments between 1995 and 2005 involving former president Jacques Chirac, potential presidential candidate Dominique de Villepin and even retired far-right icon Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Among the African officials alleged to have paid cash to the French presidency is Karim Wade -- the son of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade -- who denied the accusations and vowed to sue Bourgi for defamation.

"I vehemently deny these astonishing claims, which are nothing but a figment of his imagination," the president's son said in a statement issued late Monday.

Karim Wade added that he had asked his lawyers to immediately lodge a complaint with the competent courts for slander and defamation.

Bourgi said in an interview to the Senegalese daily L'Observateur published on Monday 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.

Among the string of African leaders alleged by Bourgi to have come to Villepin's office with cash is Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

"We reject with the utmost energy the allegations made by Mr. Robert Bourgi," government spokesman Bienvenu Okiemy told public radio Tuesday.

"Some like to think of Africa as an entity still under influence, which takes its orders from abroad and occasionally opens its coffers to feed cherry-picked politicians abroad," he said.

Bourgi told a French radio Monday he would estimate at around 20 million dollars what he personally handed to Chirac and Villepin.

Burkina Faso denied similar accusations while Gabon simply said it did not feel targeted by Bourgi's accusations involving long-time president Omar Bongo, the father of current leader Ali Bongo.


© 2011 AFP

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