African leaders sent briefcases full of cash to Chirac, lawyer says

 

Paris

France’s tortuous and murky relations with Africa generated two scandals on the same day yesterday, one political and the other diplomatic.





A lawyer who worked as an African emissary for Jacques Chirac claimed that that he had handed tens of millions of dollars in secret cash payments from African leaders to the ex- president and to the former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin in the period 1995-2005.



At the same time, the French diplomatic and military establishment was deeply split by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to welcome the much-criticised Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, on a three day state visit starting yesterday. Close aides to Mr Kagame are still under criminal investigation in France for their alleged part in the assassination which led to the Rwandan genocide in 1994.



Mr Kagame’s government has accused the French army in the past of playing a part in the genocide. The French foreign minister, Alan Juppe, who held the same post in 1994, has decided to boycott the Rwandan president’s visit.



Even bigger political waves were generated yesterday by a confessional interview by Robert Bourgi, 66, a Parisian lawyer who once served as an African emissary for Jacques Chirac and now occupies a similar role for President Nicolas Sarkozy. He told the Journal du Dimanche that he had personally handed over briefcases full of cash – up to the equivalent of £ 1.5m at a time – to President Chirac, before and during his presidency.



He claimed that the cash, apparently to fund political campaigns, came from five leaders of former French colonies in Africa: Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso; Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast; Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo; and Omar Bongo of Gabon.



A total of lars 10m was alleged to have been handed over for Mr Chirac’s 2002 presidential campaign alone, Mr Bourgi said. On one occasion, he claimed, the money was hidden in a large African ceremonial drum.



Mr Chirac’s long time chief of staff, and later prime minister, Dominique de Villepin – who was accused of handling the illicit African cash on dozens of occasions – yesterday rejected Mr Bourgi’s allegations as “fiddle-faddle and smoke-screens”.



He pointed out that Mr Bourgo had chosen to make the claims a few days before a French appeal court is due to make its judgment on the Clearsteam “fake corruption” scandal. Mr Villepin, who was cleared in a first trial in 2009, is accused of trying to destroy his centre-right colleague, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2004 by spreading false allegations that he had illegal bank-accounts in Luxembourg.



Mr Villepin – who may run in the presidential election next spring if he is cleared – suggested that the Elysee Palace had inspired the Bourgi interview to try to discredit him.



The timing of Mr Bourgi’s confessions is intriguing for other reasons. President Chirac has been on trial since Monday – but excused attendance for health reasons – on charges of illegally diverting cash from the Paris town hall to his political party.



At the same time, a book will be published next week by an investigative journalist, Pierre Pean which suggests, amongst other things, that illegal payments by African leaders were also made to Mr Sarkozy through Mr Bourgi in 2006-7. In his interview yesterday, the lawyer insisted that all such payments had halted in 2005 and had not been revived by Mr Sarkozy.



The front-running candidate for the Socialist nomination for next spring’s election, Francois Hollande, yesterday called on the justice minister to open a criminal investigation to establish the truth of the allegations and counter-allegations. “It appears that serious offences against campaign financing law – any maybe far worse than that – may have been going on for years,” Mr Hollande said.



Questions were also being asked yesterday about Mr Sarkosy’s decision to invite the Rwandan president on a state visit. Other western countries, including Britain and the United States, have distanced themselves from Mr Kagame recently following allegations of widespread human rights violations. Former senior French army officers said that it was a “scandal” that Mr Kagame had been invited despite his “unfounded” genocide allegations against French soldiers.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices