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Former minister confirms unholy France-Pak arms sale kickbacks deal

By Nairita Das

Paris, Nov 18 (ANI): Former French Defence Minister Charles Millon has confirmed the existence of kickbacks in arms deals with Pakistan, whose cancellation allegedly resulted in a deadly 2002 Karachi bombing.

According to one source close to the matter, Millon told investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke about the kickbacks during a hearing on Wednesday, the Dawn reported.

Former President Jacques Chirac had tasked Millon with ending kickbacks on arms contracts shortly after coming to power in 1995, and asked him "to proceed with revising arms contracts and to verify as much as possible if there were signs of the existence of kickbacks," the source said.

"For the Pakistani contract, looking at the secret service reports and analyses carried out by the (defence) ministry services, one has the absolute conviction that there were kickbacks," the media quoted Millon, as telling the judge.

Millon spoke in the context of the investigations and legal proceedings linked to the killing of eleven French naval engineers and three others in the May 2002 Karachi bombing.

Van Ruymbeke is investigating claims that a company set up with President Nicolas Sarkozy's approval channelled money from the arms deal commissions to fund political activities in France.

Since 2008, French investigators have been examining the allegations that the cancelling of commissions for one of the arms deals prompted the attack that killed 11 French engineers, who were in Pakistan to build submarines.

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

However, 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.

Balladur and Sarkozy, who served as spokesman for Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign, have repeatedly dismissed the 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 Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. (ANI)

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