• France's news in English

Princess affirms Sarkozy aide bagman claims

AFP · 25 Sep 2011, 19:36

Published: 25 Sep 2011 19:36 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The wife of a former close aide of French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated claims on Saturday that her husband, charged in a damaging graft scandal, had returned from trips abroad with bags of cash.

In media interviews Princess Helene of Yugoslavia, estranged wife of Thierry Gaubert, also linked him with Nicolas Bazire, the best man at Sarkozy's wedding, and Ziad Takieddine, the alleged middleman in an arms deal with Pakistan.

All three men have been charged by police investigating alleged kickbacks on the arms deal and illegal funding of former prime minister Edouard Balladur's failed 1995 presidential campaign.

Sarkozy was the campaign's spokesman at the time of the alleged payments, as well as budget minister, but insists he had nothing to do with funding.

"I confirm what I said about my husband's trips, especially abroad," the princess told Europe 1 radio, saying he used to go from Paris to Geneva and back via London.

"There was money, but I don't know where it came from," she said. "There was my husband and Mr Takieddine."

In a separate interview with the daily Le Monde, Princess Helene, 45, said her husband "went to Switzerland about once every two months".

"He went systematically via London, telling me he wanted to avoid customs checks on the French-Swiss border," she added.

"He told me one day that he was going to fetch cash from Switzerland to give it to Nicolas Bazire."

Bazire, 54, the manager of Balladur's presidential campaign and now a director of luxury goods giant LVMH, and Gaubert, 60, an advisor to Sarkozy when he was budget minister, were charged this week with misuse of public funds.

Takieddine was charged last week with fraud over arms contracts with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in which he was allegedly the middleman.

Sarkozy allies have denounced what they claim is a plot against the French president expected to seek re-election next April. Opinion polls show he is likely to lose to the victor of the ongoing Socialist primary.

Sarkozy's Elysee palace office said Thursday that the president had had no role in financing Balladur's campaign.

However his signature as budget minister at the time does reportedly appear on documents setting up a front company to handle commissions on a submarine deal.

Questions over the arms contract erupted when investigators began probing whether a 2002 bomb attack in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers working on the project was a revenge attack for promised bribes not paid.

Story continues below…

Balladur's presidential bid was defeated by Jacques Chirac, who on coming to office, cancelled payments to middlemen on the contract, allegedly angering Pakistani intelligence officers who stood to profit from the deal.

Henri Guaino, Sarkozy's special advisor, meanwhile, said on Saturday the president was "in no way involved" in the financial aspects of the Karachi affair, adding that Bazire had never been one of Sarkozy's "close advisors".

"Mr Bazire was cabinet chief of the prime minister and Balladur's campaign chief," Guaino told French television.

"He is a friend of the president, but he is not his close advisor and has never been."

"And Mr Gaubert has not been an aide to the president for more than 15 years," he added.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in Nice in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available