Paris, Nov 26 (ANI): Former French premier Dominique de Villepin said that he had "very strong suspicions" that French officials had received illegal payments related to arms deals for Pakistan in 1995.
Villepin made his statement Paris superior court as a witness on Thursday
The hearing, which lasted several hours, was chaired by Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke, who had decided in October to investigate the allegations of kickbacks in a submarine contract between France and Pakistan related to the deadly bombing, The Nation reports.
Witnesses have alleged the bombing was a revenge for the cancelling of kickbacks paid to officials in the arms deals, in a complex case linked to alleged illegal political funding, and implicating French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Villepin was the Chief of Staff to then President Jacques Chirac, who cancelled the commissions after he took office in 1995 because he suspected they would lead to kickbacks to his political rival Edouard Balladur, the paper said.
Villepin is also Sarkozy's bitterest political rival and likely to run against him for president in 2012, it added.
Witnesses have also alleged that Sarkozy, the Budget Minister at the time of the arms deal and Balladur's campaign spokesman, was linked to the commissions. Sarkozy, however, has dismissed the talks of his involvement as a "fairy tale" and denies any knowledge of kickbacks.
Last week, the victims' families had filed a civil suit against former French president Jacques Chirac on the charge of " manslaughter."
Recent investigations indicated that the stop of kickbacks payment ordered by then president Chirac was probably the fuse triggering the revenge action from benefit takers of the contract.
Fourteen people, including eleven French engineers working for DCNS in Karachi to implement a France-Pakistan contract of building submarines, were killed in a suicide bombing against their bus in May 2002. (ANI)