Lawyer claims Chirac took ‘briefcases of cash’

African leaders gave former French president Jacques Chirac and his prime minister Dominique de Villepin briefcases full of cash, notably to finance election campaigns, a former aide alleged on Sunday.

Lawyer claims Chirac took 'briefcases of cash'
Eric Pouhier (file)

Villepin, a potential candidate in next year’s presidential election, denied the allegations, which claim to shed new light on the French political establishment’s often shady relationship with former colonies in Africa.  

Both Chirac and Villepin have said they will file defamation complaints against Robert Bourgi, who made the claims in France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper.  

Bourgi, a lawyer with a network of African contacts who advised both men before changing camps in 2005 to aid now President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he “took part in handing over several briefcases to Jacques Chirac in person, at Paris city hall” when the future president was mayor in the 1980s and 1990s.  

“There was never less than five million francs (€750,000). It could go up to 15 million,” Bourgi said, giving a detailed account of how Chirac would offer him beer while allegedly putting away the bundles of cash.  

“I remember the first handing over of funds in Villepin’s presence. The money came from Marshal Mobutu (Sese Seko), president of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).”  

“It was in 1995. He had given me 10 million francs that Jacques Foccart gave to Chirac,” Bourgi said, referring to his predecessor who was president Charles de Gaulle’s pointman for Africa and then briefly also for Chirac.  

Chirac’s lawyer, Jean Veil, said on Sunday he has been instructed by Chirac to file a defamation complaint against Bourgi over his claims.  

Villepin told the France 2 television channel he would do the same.  

“They are trying to stop me from running (for president), they have been putting spokes in the wheels for years, but I have thick skin,” he said.  

Bourgi claimed the money handed over amounted to “several million francs a year. More during elections”.  

“In the run-up to the 2002 presidential campaign (won by Chirac), Villepin asked me outright ‘what steps to take’.”  

Bourgi said five African leaders came to Villepin’s office: Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore, Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo and Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso and Gabon’s Omar Bongo.  

There, they handed over around $10 million for the 2002 campaign, he alleged.  

Senegal “catagorically denies” the claims, a presidential office spokesman told AFP, while Gbagbo’s former number two, Mamadou Koulibaly, confirmed that “there was a transfer of money” from Abidjan to Paris in 2002.  

“Robert Bourgi is perfectly right,” he told AFP, adding that the sum was “around two billion West African CFA francs (around €3m) brought from Abidjan to Paris in a suitcase.”  

“I told the president (Gbagbo) that we’re a poor country and we shouldn’t have to pay to finance elections for politicians in rich countries,” Koulibaly lamented.  

Bourgi said that since he started working for Sarkozy he had no longer brought in cases of African cash, although another former African advisor to Chirac, Michel de Bonnecorse, denied this.  

The newspaper report led opposition Socialists to call for a judicial probe, Villepin allies to demand to know what Bourgi’s current relationship is with Sarkozy and Bourgi himself to say he was available for judges to question.  

Chirac, 78, was last week excused from attending his corruption trial over alleged ghost jobs created during his time at city hall. His doctors said he was afflicted by memory lapses.  

Judges will this week also rule on Villepin’s involvement in the Clearstream affair dating back to 2004 in which Villepin is accused of smearing his bitter rival Sarkozy.  

Villepin, a suave diplomat best remembered for leading the charge against the Iraq war at the United Nations in 2003, was cleared of all charges in a first trial that ended last year.

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France: Final farewell for Chirac in family’s home village

Former French President Jacques Chirac's family bade him a final farewell Saturday at an intimate ceremony in the southwestern village where he grew up.

France: Final farewell for Chirac in family's home village

“I can only say thank you in the name of my father and mother,” the statesman's daughter Claude Chirac said in a tearful address at Sainte-Fereole, a small village in the Chirac fiefdom of the Correze region.

“In childhood and adolescence, Jacques Chirac was made here,” said mayor Henri Soulier.

Born in Paris, Chirac, who died aged 86 on September 26, moved as a young boy to Sainte-Fereole where he was elected a municipal councillor in 1965 before becoming a Correze lawmaker two years later.

He continued to represent the Correze department until becoming president in 1995, serving as head of state until 2007.

Chirac's widow Bernadette, 86, did not attend the gathering of some 200 people in a picturesque village square decked out in portraits of the former president showing key moments of his life in public service.

Soulier said he had proposed and Chirac's family had agreed to rename the square after him in the village which they had insisted would be the site of the final homage to his life.

Prior to the ceremony, local leaders had accompanied the family to lay a wreath at the tomb of Chirac's parents.

The group then stopped by the village hall and the family home, of which Claude Chirac's husband Frederic Salat-Baroux vowed “we shall never sell this house. One is always from somewhere and, for Claude, that's here.”

Claude recalled how she was “often at Sainte-Fereole with Laurence,” Chirac's other daughter, who died in 2016.

“We would leave Paris on Friday and our parents would leave us there before travelling around the department,” she recalled.

“My mother is very emotional today that she cannot come … it's an exceptional homage. It is very comforting to her. And I want to say thank you for that because she really needs it,” Claude said.

Local authorities said meanwhile some 3,000 people had participated in a day of “memory and friendship” to honour Chirac at nearby Sarran, where Bernadette was first elected a municipal councillor in 1971 and which houses a museum dedicated to his life.

Among those attending Saturday was former Socialist president Francois Hollande, who was a political rival of Chirac in Correze, as well as Chirac's grandson Martin Rey-Chirac.

Dozens of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, last Monday paid their final respects at a funeral service in Paris alongside dignitaries including former US president Bill Clinton, a day after 7,000 people queued to view Chirac's coffin at Invalides military hospital and museum.

He was then laid to rest at a cemetery at Montparnasse in Paris.