• France edition
 
African dirty cash scandal rocks France
Politicus9 (file)

African dirty cash scandal rocks France

Published: 13 Sep 2011 11:11 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2011 11:11 GMT+02:00

African leaders gave French former president Jacques Chirac and possible presidential candidate Dominique de Villepin $20 million in cash, including to finance elections, a lawyer said Monday.

The money came from several presidents of France's former African colonies, and was handed over by himself to the centre-right politicians in stages between 1995 and 2005, Robert Bourgi said in an interview with Europe 1 radio.  

Insisting he was coming forward now because he wanted a "clean France", Bourgi said the system of kickbacks had also existed under former presidents Georges Pompidou, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Francois Mitterrand.  

He said he could not estimate how much had been handed over before he became directly involved, but could speak about the deliveries he said he had made to Chirac's office when he was mayor of Paris and later to Villepin.  

"I'd estimate at around $20 million what I handed to Mr Chirac and to Dominique de Villepin," he told Europe 1, fleshing out the detail of claims he had already made in a newspaper interview that appeared on Sunday.  

The allegations, which were furiously denied by Chirac and Villepin, come just seven months before France's presidential election, in which President Nicolas Sarkozy could face a Villepin challenge from within the right.  

Villepin, a suave diplomat best remembered for leading the charge against the Iraq war at the United Nations in 2003, has said the revelations are aimed at derailing his presidential bid.  

Bourgi, an unofficial long-time pointman between French and African leaders, catalogued what he said were lavish gifts bestowed by African rulers on their counterparts in Paris, including memorabilia to noted Napoleon Bonaparte fan Villepin.  

On Sunday, Bourgi detailed other gifts, including a watch with 200 diamonds given to Chirac by Bongo.  

"A splendid object but difficult to wear in France," Bourgi said. 

Bourgi also alleged other French politicians took African cash.

On Monday he claimed in a French television interview that the former head of the far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, financed part of his 1988 presidential campaign with money from Gabon's ex-president Omar Bongo.  

Le Pen denied the claims, saying they were "false... ridiculous," and said he would file a defamation complaint against Bourgi.

"If this Mr. Bourgi was charged with giving me these funds, he must have kept them for himself," Le Pen told BFM television, adding that he thinks Bourgi is being guided by Sarkozy.

Bourgi is widely reported to be close to Sarkozy, but insisted in the interview that he was neither an official nor unofficial advisor to the president, simply someone who was sometimes consulted for an opinion.

While Bourgi has been at pains to stress that such practices did not continue under Sarkozy, who gave him the prestigious Legion d'Honneur award in 2007, a former aide to Chirac said on Monday that "nothing stopped with Sarkozy".

"Bourgi worked tirelessly for Sarkozy with numerous African heads of state during the 2007 presidential election," Jean-Francois Probst told Le Parisien daily.

He "went to Libreville as early as July 2007 and made a new deal with Omar Bongo, who, they say, gave him a billion African francs (over €1.5 million)", Probst said.

The suggestion that payments had stopped under Sarkozy is "not credible, it's even the biggest lie of his life", Probst said. 

An advisor to former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, Bernard Houdin, said that such payments were "a historical practice" and that "the sums mentioned are no doubt below reality".

Chirac and Villepin have said they will lodge lawsuits against Bourgi, who described himself as "repentant" after having for years taken part in "the dark side of Francafrique", a French term describing the country's sometimes murky relations with its former colonies in Africa.

Asked what African leaders got in exchange for their cash, Bourgi said:

"Lies, lies, lies, unkept promises, meaning that France would close its eyes to certain abuses of power in Africa."

Bourgi admitted that he had no proof to back up his allegations, while a former minister from Sarkozy's UMP party, also a lawyer, said he was shocked by the revelations as they implicated Bourgi himself.

"I'm surprised because Mr Bourgi is seriously incriminating himself," Patrick Devedjian told LCI television.

"He will have to give a serious account to justice, beyond defamation."

The Paris bar association said on Monday it had opened an ethical inquiry into the truth of the missions that lawyer Bourgi said he carried out.

Burkina Faso meanwhile rejected as "grotesque" allegations that its president was among African leaders who gave money for Chirac's election campaign.

"It is an absolutely grotesque statement by someone who ... wants to crucify his former friends because of problems of positioning in French politics," Alain Edouard Traore, a spokesman for the government of President Blaise Compaore, told journalists.

"I really don't see what we, Burkina Faso, have to do with this French story. Let them sort out their own problems," he said.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Why topless French women are covering up
Why going topless on French beaches is no longer de rigueur. Photo: Shutterstock

Why topless French women are covering up

Topless sunbathers were once synonymous with French beaches, but with the trend apparently no longer de rigeur, The Local looks at why French women no longer feel the need, or feel comfortable taking their tops off on the beaches. READ  

Uproar over sale of 'jihadist book' in France
'Islamist propaganda' sold in mainstream French stores has sparked controversy. Photo: Screengran/Amazon

Uproar over sale of 'jihadist book' in France

An apparent nondescript book called 'The Way of the Muslim', which is on sale in 1,000 stores across France, contains incitement to holy war and encourages killing “heretics” leading to uproar and calls for the text to be pulled. READ  

France hands over 'Jewish museum shooter'
Mehdi Nemmouche, the suspect in the Jewish museum shooting in Belgium has been handed over to authorities in Brussels. Photo: AFP

France hands over 'Jewish museum shooter'

French police handed over Mehdi Nemmouche to their counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday. Nemmouche is suspected of shooting dead four people at a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital in May. READ  

France set to pull its nationals out of Libya
Libyan security services and civilians gather across the street after a car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, Libya on April 23rd, 2013. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

France set to pull its nationals out of Libya

Amid an increasingly dangerous environment in Libya, France has decided to evacuate its nationals for their safety, according to reports on Tuesday. France's decision comes amid warnings and similar evacuations of other foreigners from the strife-torn North African nation. READ  

Nibbling rats blamed for French rail crash
The rear of a TGV train after it was hit by a regional TER train in south western France on Thursday. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Nibbling rats blamed for French rail crash

Rats nibbling at signalling cables led to a crash between two passenger trains that injured 40 people in south-west France earlier this month, a new report has announced. And signal failure is not the only problem being blamed on rats this week. READ  

Eurostar to start London-Marseille direct train
Eurostar is going to start direct train service from London to Marseilles. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Eurostar to start London-Marseille direct train

Getting from London to France's sunny Mediterranean coast is about to get a lot easier because Eurostar has announced it'll start direct service to Marseille next year. READ  

No new criminal probe against Sarkozy
Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the subject of yet another criminal probe. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

No new criminal probe against Sarkozy

Media reports on Tuesday claimed yet another criminal investigation had been launched against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, surrounding funding for 2007 presidential campaign, but the newspaper that first published the story has since admitted it's not true. READ  

EU to impose new sanctions on Russia
EU and the US are to impose new sanctions on Russia after their leaders agreed Moscow had done nothing to decrease tensions in the Ukraine. Photo: AFP

EU to impose new sanctions on Russia

France and its fellow EU powers along with the US agreed on the need to impose new sanctions on Russia over its presumed role in Ukraine's insurgency, the French presidency said on Monday. The sanctions should be finalised on Tuesday and will come into force shortly. READ  

Peach wars: French fury over Spanish dumping
French fruit growers unload a truck of Spanish peaches onto the road as the "peach war" between the two countries heats up. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

Peach wars: French fury over Spanish dumping

France has gone on the offensive in what is starting to look like an increasngly bitter "peach war" against Spain after authorities stepped up the number of checks on trucks carrying fruit across the border. READ  

French envoy's New York home search scuppered
Neighbours in a swanky New York apartment block have scuppered the hopes of France's ambassador to land a new home. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

French envoy's New York home search scuppered

France's ambassador to the United Nations is struggling to find a new home in New York after his attempts to buy a palatial 14-room apartment ran into trouble with prospective neighbours, who were concerned about the number of parties he would have. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Reckless or adventurous? US dad takes his two children up Mont Blanc
National
From manure to money: Ten bizarre facts about the French Parliament
Culture
Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
International
Is France really Europe's biggest public spenders?
National
Could your job in France soon be done by a robot?
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se