‘Karachi affair’ suspect charged, held in France

'Karachi affair' suspect charged, held in France
Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP
French authorities charged a Franco-Lebanese businessman Friday at the centre of a high-profile political scandal, a day after detaining him on suspicion he was trying to flee the country, a legal source said.

On Thursday, police detained Ziad Takieddine on suspicion that he was making plans to flee the country, despite a ban on foreign travel, by trying to obtain a diplomatic passport, said a source close to the case.

Police who conducted a search of his Paris home on April 11th had found an email that suggested he had paid €200,000 ($260,000) to try to get the document from the Dominican Republic.

As a result, Paris prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation in early May into the alleged corruption of a foreign public official and for fraud.

He was questioned by investigating magistrates on Friday morning before being charged and remanded in custody for those offences the same evening, said the source.

The case has been attached to two other ongoing investigations into Takieddine's affairs.

Contacted by AFP, one of his lawyers, Francis Vuillemin, said Takieddine's efforts to obtain a Dominican passport had been to facilitate plans to make investments in the country and had nothing to do with any plans to flee France.

His client had always respected the terms of his bail, he added.

"Ziad Takieddine has therefore absolutely not 'bought' a passport, nor sought to quit French territory," he said.

Takieddine is embroiled in several scandals in France, some of which allegedly involve former President Nicolas Sarkozy and other high-profile politicians.

Perhaps the most notorious matter is the so-called Karachi affair, in which he has been charged with corruption over commissions he allegedly received in 1994 arms deals.

Investigators are looking at whether those commissions were used illegally to fund former prime minister Edouard Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign.

Nicolas Sarkozy, was Balladur's campaign spokesman at that time.

Takieddine has also in the past claimed to have proof Sarkozy received illicit funding from Libya's then dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.

Magistrates have opened a separate investigation into that affair.

Takieddine is also being investigated for suspected money laundering after he was detained with €1.5 million euros in cash on a private flight out of Libya in March 2011, French judicial sources said late last year.

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