French President's Ally Charged With Corruption
by RTT Staff Writer
9/22/2011 8:17 PM ET
(RTTNews) - Nicolas Bazire, one of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's closest friends and the best man at his wedding to Carla Bruni in 2008, was charged Thursday with misuse of public funds in connection with an arms sale to Pakistan in the 1990s.
Bazire was charged on Thursday by French judges investigating allegations of corruption in the unsuccessful 1995 presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur, a conservative and former prime minister.
Bazire is accused of taking kickbacks from the sale of submarines to Pakistan in the 1990s and using those funds to finance Balladur's campaign. Bazire, who was the chief of staff for Balladur, has denied the accusations.
Police had arrested Bazire, who is now a director of French luxury goods group LVMH, on Wednesday and searched his home and office. He was questioned overnight and released Thursday after being charged.
Another of Sarkozy's allies, Thierry Gaubert, was also arrested in connection with the same case on Wednesday. He has since been released, but is under formal investigation for embezzlement. Gaubert, like Bazire, has also denied any involvement in what the French media has dubbed as the "Karachi affair."
The investigation into the 'Karachi affair' is aimed at determining whether a 2002 bomb attack in Karachi in which 11 French workers were killed was prompted by the French decision to stop paying commissions on arms sale to middle-men in Pakistan. The investigators are probing claims that some of those funds were used to finance Balladur's election campaign.
Sarkozy, who was budget minister in Balladur's government and spokesman for his campaign in 1995, has distanced himself from the suspected corruption scandal insisting that he "never exercised the slightest authority in the campaign financing."
"Nicolas Sarkozy did not manage Mr Edouard Balladur's campaign," the French President's office said in a statement issued Thursday, insisting that any claim otherwise is "just slander and petty political manipulation."
"As far as the so-called 'Karachi affair' is concerned, the head of state's name does not appear in any part of the dossier. His name has been cited by no witness nor actor in this case," the statement added.
The developments come amidst intensive campaigning for the 2012 presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place next April. Sarkozy himself is seeking reelection in the April elections. The president is immune from prosecution while in office.