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Europe

Karachigate bribe case files stay secret

media The judge is investigating the circumstances surrounding a 2002 attack … AFP

France’s Consultative Commission on Defence Secrets has refused to lift the veil on files related to alleged bribery during the sale of French military ships to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The application to declassify the secret documents was made by Paris investigating judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke.
 

Van Ruymbeke had specifically demanded access to tax declarations filed by French companies Thomson and Sofresa, who are both engaged in selling weaponry abroad.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The tax statements are believed to contain data on commissions paid to foreign officials ordering equipment from France, with a portion of the money allegedly returning to line the pockets of French politicians themselves.

French media reports speak of a nexus comprising French defence officials, arms makers, vendors, middlemen, Saudi and mainly Pakistani politicians and some of their French counterparts all receiving a cut in the deal.

Hundreds of millions of French francs, currently estimated to be worth around 50 million euros, were reportedly set aside for bribes by the French authorities to ensure the sale of French submarines to Pakistan.

Here in France, former prime minister Edouard Balladur’s campaign for the presidency in 1995 allegedly received a cut from the Pakistani bribes.

Current President Nicolas Sarkozy was the Balladur campaign spokesperson.

The winner of the 1995 presidential polls,

Jaqcues Chirac, cancelled the deal

on being elected.

In September 2002, a giant bomb attack killed 11 French technicians working on assembling the French submarines in Karachi. A bloody response to the cancelled payouts? Many media commentators believe so.

The mystery of the cash flowing out of France’s coffers to various people in the buyer countries and in France remains nearly intact. Only a tiny corner of the veil has been lifted. Investigators are struggling to find out to reveal more.

The Defense Secrecy Commission’s latest refusal to grant the judges a look at confidential files gives the French government a legal argument for keeping the lid on.

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