• 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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France ready to conduct air strikes on Iraq
France's president to hold press conference on Thursday. Photo: AFP

France ready to conduct air strikes on Iraq

During a long-awaited press conference on Thursday, French President François Hollande said he has authorised air strikes in Iraq, joining a US-led effort to stop the lightning advance of Islamic State group militants there. READ  

Ten must-see sites for France’s 'Heritage days'
Here's 10 things not to miss for this weekend's 'Journées du Patrimoine'. Photo: AFP

Ten must-see sites for France’s 'Heritage days'

Once a year France opens the doors on tonnes of fascinating, bizarre and important places that are generally closed to the public. Here are 10 things not to miss this weekend for ‘Heritage days’. READ  

Watchdog urges drop in France’s 'hefty' road tolls
A French government agency says motorway tolls are too high in France. Photo: Motoyen/Flickr

Watchdog urges drop in France’s 'hefty' road tolls

The tolls on France’s privatized motorways are ‘unjustified’ and are delivering an up to 24 percent profit to the companies that run them, a government watchdog says. READ  

Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
Gerard Depardieu says he drinks 14 bottles of booze per day. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’

Provocative French actor Gérard Dépardieu has revealed the extent of his love for the hard stuff, claiming to drink up to 14 bottles of wine, whisky and Champagne a day. Apparently just making vodka wasn't enough for the "Welcome to New York" star. READ  

France's rail company charged in crash deaths
Photo: AFP

France's rail company charged in crash deaths

France's state-owned railway company was charged with manslaughter on Thursday for the derailment in the Paris suburbs that killed seven people in 2013. A report slammed SNCF for a series of failures that lead to the crash. READ  

Air France pilots threaten 'unlimited' strike
Over half of Air France's flights remained grounded on Thursday due to a pilots' strike. Photo: AFP

Air France pilots threaten 'unlimited' strike

Air France pilots have threatened to continue their strike into a second week because management has not backed down on expanding a low-cost flight company. More than half of Air France flights remain grounded. READ  

Four killed as heavy storms strike France
Flash flooding killed three people in France and left two others missing. Photo: AFP

Four killed as heavy storms strike France

Four people have been killed after flood waters swept through a campground in France after unusually heavy later summer thunderstorms. READ  

First French Ebola patient headed home
The first French Ebola patient was to flown home on Thursday. Photo: AFP

First French Ebola patient headed home

A volunteer with Doctors Without Borders has become the first French person to contract Ebola in the outbreak which is the worst in history and has already claimed more than 2,400 lives READ  

VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
Here's a sneak peak at France's much anticipated rugby hunk calendar. Photo: Screengrab/StadeFrançais

VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar

France's annual calendar featuring the country's rugby hunks has unveiled its cover boy for the 2015 edition, but also a video of the making of 'Les Dieux du Stade' that should interest fans of these lightly clothed fellows. READ  

French leader calls factory workers 'illiterate'
A French minister is in hot water after calling factory workers illiterate. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

French leader calls factory workers 'illiterate'

France's whizzkid new economy minister has been begging for forgiveness after referring to women workers at a troubled factory as 'illiterates' just weeks after his boss President François Hollande was accused of calling the poor "toothless". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
Does France have a racism problem?
National
National
'Enough gloom, France is an amazing country'
Gallery
The top ten tourist traps to avoid in France
Politics
The juiciest bits from Trierweiler's tell-all book
Politics
Trierweiler tells all: 'Hollande wanted me back, at any price'
Education
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
Politics
Manuel Valls has plenty in common with Tony Blair, but not background
International
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
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