• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

African dirty cash scandal rocks France

AFP · 13 Sep 2011, 11:11

Published: 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."

Story continues below…

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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France charges Charlie Hebdo killer’s relative
The suspect was charged after being handed over to French authorities by Bulgaria. Dimitar Dilkoff /AFP

The brother-in-law of one of the jihadists who attacked French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year faced terrorism charges on Saturday for allegedly trying to join Islamic State fighters in Syria, a judicial source said.

French mayors dismiss suspended burqini ban
Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet /AFP

The row over France’s burqini ban continues with several mayors vowing to keep restrictions in place despite the country’s top court suspending the ban in the resort town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

France's top court suspends burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court has suspended a town's ban on wearing the full-body burqini swimsuit.

Milk price raised, but French farmers still unhappy
The sign on the tractor reads 'We're dying', as farmers blocked Lactalis dairy headquarters. Photo: AFP

Milk prices have been raised by France's biggest dairy group to placate farmers, but unions say their demands have not been met.

Burqini bans 'dividing France's Muslim women'
Photo: AFP

The burqini bans have divided France, but they have also left Muslim women in France in two groups, argues a professor who has spent years studying the impact of the burqa.

Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,753
jobs available