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23 Nov, 2009 05:25

Businessman denies “Angolagate” charges

Russian-French businessman Arkady Gaydamak says he has been wrongly convicted of arms trafficking by a French court.

He was found guilty of selling weapons to Angola, along with a number of leading French politicians. Gaydamak was sentenced in absentia to six years’ imprisonment for his part in selling arms during the Angolan Civil War in the 1990s. The media labeled the decade-long case “Angolagate”.

The businessman says he has been caught up in the machinations of France's internal politics. The billionaire, who carries four passports, denies he has anything to do with the arms trade, and has made his money from oil rather than guns.

He fled France when the authorities began their investigation – firstly living in Israel and now in Russia. He even tried to become Mayor of Jerusalem last year.

For his first on-camera interview since the sentence, Arkady Gaydamak invited RT into his Moscow home to help set the record straight.

“An individual cannot sell arms. If arms were delivered, they were delivered by Russian State companies. My colleague and I received Angolan citizenship and diplomatic titles, and we sold oil guarantees,” Gaydamak explains.

He says he did do business in Angola for years, but insists it was while living in France the accusations started.

He had become acquainted with then-Minister of Internal Affairs of France, Charles Pasqua, who had a good chance of becoming president if he ever got to run. According to Gaydamak, the association was used in order to defame Pasqua and ruin his political career:

“The case was initiated in the year 2000 and the goal was to keep Mr Pasqua from running in the presidential election. A major campaign was launched to discredit Mr Pasqua by discrediting everyone attached to this case,” Gaydamak told RT.

“I think Mr Jaques Chirac was himself behind it, as well as his future prime minister, Dominique De Villepin. They totally fabricated the case, there were no true facts or materials presented in court, and it was a success. Pasqua had to step down and many experts believe this is the only reason Chirac became president,”
the businessman is convinced.

Charles Pasqua, who is in his eighties, was also sentenced to three years in prison, although he claims any arms deals that took place in the ’90s were known by both President Chirac and high ranking cabinet members.

“How come, while the justice system considers that those arms sales are illegal, the authorities which were aware of that didn't do anything to stop these actions? And why, in that case, aren't they sued for complicity?” Pasqua said at a news conference on November 12.

Pasqua was also accused of taking bribes from Gaydamak in return for a medal of honor, received for helping rescue French Servicemen in the Bosnian war. Gaydamak showed RT the medal and also several once-classified documents that prove its authenticity. The papers were not accepted by the judge, and French officials claim they knew nothing about it.

“There's no way Mr. Chirac couldn’t have known what I got the medal for – he signed it,” Gaydamak said.

Pasqua has pressed charges against the ruling judge in the case and the French Ministry of Justice said they cannot comment.

And although it is not clear which way the appeal will go, Gaydamak has his verdict – which he says has turned his life upside down:

“The unfair actions against me have caused great damage to me and my family. I have not been able to live in my house in Paris for ten years. My relations – both business and private – have been destroyed. This has damaged my entire life.”