Ziad Takieddine: The ski-resort owner with a taste for the high life

 

In the early 1990s, Ziad Takieddine exchanged one kind of slippery slope for another.

As the manager of the chic Isola 2000 ski resort in the French Alps, he became friendly with a number of French politicians, including the centre-right Defence Minister François Léotard.

As an Arabic-speaking, Lebanese-born businessman, he re-invented himself as a middle-man for arms negotiations between France and Middle Eastern and Muslim countries.

His British-born ex-wife, Nicola Johnson, 51, met him on a skiing holiday in the 1980s. In an interview last year, she described how the couple moved almost overnight from the modest but comfortable world of the Alps to a jet-set world of “luxury holidays, trips in private aircraft, property investment, and chauffeur and servants”.

Mr Takieddine, 62, and Ms Johnson divorced acrimoniously two years ago. He accuses her of providing information to the authorities which has fuelled the investigation into his alleged money-laundering and fixing of political kick-backs on multibillion-dollar arms deals. She is suing him for defamation.

He is under formal investigation for his part in a series of arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in 1993-95. It is alleged that huge kick-backs on these deals helped fund the failed presidential campaign of the former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur in 1995.

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