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2 Oct, 2019 04:52

Pakistan submarine deal scandal: Former French PM Balladur to stand trial over role in kickbacks scheme

Pakistan submarine deal scandal: Former French PM Balladur to stand trial over role in kickbacks scheme

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur will be tried for financial crimes over his role in a kickback scheme tied to an arms deal with Pakistan in the 1990s, which saw large sums paid out to officials in bribes.

Attorney General Francois Molin announced the upcoming trial without specifying a date, but said the proceedings would take place in France’s Court of Justice of the Republic, a tribunal devoted to official misconduct. The country’s ex-defense minister Francois Leotard will also stand trial alongside the former PM. Both deny any wrongdoing.

The 90-year-old Balladur was initially charged in 2017 for “complicity in misuse of corporate assets and concealment” in relation to a 1994 submarine deal between Paris and Islamabad. Hoping to persuade the Pakistanis to purchase French vessels over British competitors, Paris arranged a regime of “commissions” and kickback payments for a litany of officials, lobbyists and other businessmen in both countries.

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Balladur is not only believed to have approved the payments, but allegedly profited from the deal personally and used the proceeds to finance his 1995 presidential bid, which he ultimately lost to Jacques Chirac.

Though the kickbacks scheme was first uncovered by Pakistani investigators in 1997, a bus bombing in the city of Karachi put a spotlight back on the case in 2002 – dubbed the “Karachi affair.” The bombing targeted a building site for the submarine project, killing fifteen workers, including 11 French engineers. The incident was blamed on Islamist militants, while some reports claimed the bombing might’ve been a retaliation after the French kickback payments ceased.

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