'Kickbacks and killings' arms deal scandal back to haunt Sarkozy, Zardari?

Paris, Oct 8 (ANI): France is all set to launch an investigation into the alleged embezzlement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, from arms deals between the two countries.

According to a judicial source, investigating magistrate, Renaud van Ruymbeke, is to probe allegations that a company set up with French President Nicolas Sarkozy's approval channelled money from arms deal commissions to fund political activities in France, The News reported.

Since 2008, French investigators have been probing allegations that the cancelling of one of the arms deals' commissions prompted a bomb attack on 11 French engineers in Karachi in 2002.

Earlier, the state prosecutor, who unlike an investigating magistrate is subordinate to the justice ministry and therefore the government, had said that there were no grounds for a corruption investigation.

However, the new suit explicitly sought "magistrates who are independent of political power," said Olivier Morice, the lawyer for the victims' relatives.

"For us, this is a considerable victory. This is proof that our case is well founded... This is proof that this is a matter of importance at state level," he added.

The French media had previously quoted Luxembourg police as saying that Sarkozy oversaw the establishment of two companies in Luxembourg, Heine and Eurolux, when he was the budget minister under former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

However, Balladur and Sarkozy, who served as spokesman for Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign, have repeatedly dismissed allegations of illegal party funding.

In 1995, Balladur lost the presidential election to Jacques Chirac, who promptly cancelled commissions that were allegedly due to be paid to Pakistani officers.

One leaked French report on the affair said that the commissions paid to Pakistani figures were ordered by Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

In May 2002, a bomb in Karachi killed 11 French naval engineers, who were in Pakistan to build the submarines, possibly in revenge for the cancelled bribes.

The victims' families believe they were deceived by the French state and top ranking French and Pakistani political leaders, and that their loved ones were killed as a result of a sordid political funding scandal. (ANI)

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