France’s Balladur, Sarkozy to stand trial for corruption

Former French prime minister, Edouard Balladur, above centre, and former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, will have to stand trial in corruption cases linked to their respective election campaigns, reports say.

A special tribunal will try Balladur for allegedly accepting kickbacks from the sale of Agosta class submarines by the French government to Pakistan to illegally fund his presidential campaign in 1995, prosecutor Francois Molins said on Tuesday.

Balladur is accused of receiving $1.6 million as kickbacks. However, he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Investigation into the so- called Karachi Affair focuses on whether middlemen in Pakistan, mostly government officials, received bribes in the submarine deals inked in the 1990s.

The murky deals came to light in 2002 when 11 French submarine engineers were killed in a car bomb blast in the port city of Karachi targeting the bus they were travelling in.

Although Al-Qaeda was initially linked to the suicide attack and some of its members were arrested, new investigations pointed to middlemen who wanted to hit back after their kickback payments were stopped by late president Jacques Chirac when he came to power defeating Balladur in the election.

Balladur’s defence minister, François Léotard, has been accused of setting up the channel for the flow of kickbacks to arms dealers in France and Pakistan. Léotard too has denied any wrongdoing.

Like Balladur, former president Sarkozy faces trial on charges of illegally funding his 2012 election campaign.

Sarkozy, 64, will be tried for active corruption and seeking to influence a judge.

If convicted, he will be jailed for up to ten years and fined $163,000 for corruption. For influencing the judge, he may face a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of $546,223.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy spent nearly $46 million — double the prescribed limit — on his unsuccessful presidential bid against François Hollande.