French ex-PM faces trial over kickbacks from arms deals

Former French prime minister Édouard Balladur has gone on trial accused of financing his failed 1995 presidential campaign with illegal kickbacks from international arms deals. The Guardian reports.

The 91-year-old former politician made no statements to reporters when he arrived at the court.

Balladur has previously denied any accusations of complicity in the alleged misappropriation of public funds, saying he did not know of any kickbacks and was not responsible for the details of the finances in the presidential campaign.

According to the newspaper, the former official told investigators he thought the massive cash injection to his campaign funds came from the sale of T-shirts at rallies and meetings.

The corruption scandal is related to the conclusion of two French arms contracts in the 90s, when Balladur was prime minister during the presidency of François Mitterrand.

Last June, a court in France found a former government officials guilty of charges involving kickbacks from the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia signed between 1993 and 1995.

The kickbacks are estimated at around 13 million francs, which is now almost 2 million euros.

Those found guilty included Nicolas Bazire, Balladur’s former campaign manager; Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, a former adviser to defence minister François Léotard; and Thierry Gaubert, a former adviser to the then budget minister and later president Nicolas Sarkozy.

– Bazire and Donnedieu de Vabres were sentenced to five years, with two years suspended. They, and Gaubert, have appealed against their convictions, – the Guardian noted.

The court said that the defendants could not have ignore the fact that  1.6 million euros that ended up on the accounts of the Balladur election campaign was of «dubious origin».

Lebanese mediator Ziad Takieddin was also sentenced in this case to five years in prison, who is currently in Lebanon.

The trial is expected to continue until 11 February.