INFO What is the “Karachi” affair, which arose from the past and for which a French Prime Minister must be tried?

The trial of retro-commissions on arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia opens on October 7, implicating several personalities of French power in the 1990s. Former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur (90 years old) and his ex-minister François Léotard (77 years old) will be tried later by the Court of Justice of the Republic for the alleged hidden financing through this means of the presidential campaign of 1995. For 25 years, and more since the bloody attack of Karachi in 2002 which could be linked to him, the affair haunts the French right. Understand everything

What is it about ?

From a state affair that arose from another time, a little forgotten but which comes, after a very long judicial process, to revive many ghosts. His – possible – last act announced today catches up in their final retirement, twenty-five years late, eminent political figures of the past. A caricatural delay which signals, as you wish, the tenacity of a few judges or, on the contrary, the reluctance of justice or its supposed auxiliaries to worry people who have occupied the summits of power. Or both

We are in the last century, on the eve of the 1995 presidential election. A fratricidal duel is tearing the right apart. Jacques Chirac fights there his ex- ”  friend of thirty  “, Edouard Balladur who betrayed him with, among others, Nicolas Sarkozy. The first still holds more or less the “Gaullist” party; the second is almost at the head of the State, Prime Minister of

cohabitation under the twilight presidency of François Mitterrand.

The countryside is harsh and demands resources. Edouard Balladur and François Léotard (his Minister of Defense) are now suspected of having found part of it by diverting, between 1993 and 1995, illegal retro-commissions on arms contracts with Pakistan and Arabia. Arabia.

At the end of a judgment published this week, the two men are referred to the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) for abuse of social assets and alleged hidden financing of the 1995 presidential campaign. Dates of the hearings not yet fixed.

Six other protagonists – including another former minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabre – appear from October 7 to 31 before the Paris Criminal Court

Why “Karachi? “

It is the place – and it has become the name – of the killing which perhaps tragically led to the alleged embezzlement. It has in any case contributed to its updating.

On May 8, 2002 in Karachi (southern Pakistan), a kamikaze vehicle was launched against a bus carrying personnel from the Directorate of Naval Construction (DCN). French company under private law but in the bosom of the State – Richelieu was, four centuries earlier, the distant founder – the DCN executed in Pakistan a major contract (5 billion euros) to build classic submarines, ”  Augusta  “.

The attack killed fifteen people, including eleven French employees – from Cherbourg – and a dozen injured. Occurring a few days after the re-election of Jacques Chirac (against Jean-Marie Le Pen, Lionel Jospin having been eliminated in the first round), it has a big impact in France. We are eight months after Manhattan’s “September 11”, and in its shock wave. The massacre is first blamed on Islamists. Entrusted to the anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, a hasty investigation incriminates Al Qaida.

We have to wait seven more years and the resumption of the case by two other judges, Marc Trévidic for the terrorist trail then Renaud Van Ruymbeke for the financial aspect for a very different hypothesis to emerge, supported by the leaked report (”  Nautilus  “) a former agent of the DST (Direction de 

surveillance du territoire, French counter-espionage): the attack was not the work of Islamists but a reprisal operation against the decision of Jacques Chirac, after his election against Balladur, to stop the payment of retro-commissions in these armaments contracts

Right or wrong (although unproven, it is now widely considered to be the most serious), this thesis has led magistrates to various discoveries. They become convinced that the so-called retro-commissions – estimated at some 13 million francs (nearly 2 million euros) – have been used in part (by adding additional beneficiaries, the “K network”) to the financing of the campaign of his opponent, Édouard Balladur. Whose accounts have yet been validated.

The investigators are particularly intrigued by a cash payment of 10 million francs into Balladur’s account on April 26, 1995, the day after his defeat. The alleged proceeds of gadgets distributed during the campaign. That’s a lot of key chains and two weeks earlier, Ziad Takieddine, head of the alleged Network K, had just withdrawn in Switzerland almost exactly the same amount.

“  This contract [the armaments contract with Karachi, editor’s note] of 5 billion francs, it was still at a loss of 1.5 billion, it must be said! , recalls Marc Trévidic in an interview with Le Monde on October 7 . It was signed in a hurry precisely to have new money quickly .  

In its judgment of 267 pages published the 1 st of October, the CJR instruction committee gives any credit event that charge of occult financing – following the submissions of the prosecutor – without engaging the possible link with the Karachi attack and the retaliation thesis

Who exactly is accused of what?

Former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur is accused of having ”  given instructions that the Budget Minister [Nicolas Sarkozy, editor’s note] consent to the State giving its guarantee to loss-making or under-funded contracts  ” due in particular to dubious commissions, according to the statement of the Attorney General.

He will also be judged for ”  having thus been able to finance his electoral campaign of 1995, in particular thanks to cash to the tune of 10,250,000 francs, likely to come from retro-commissions on these markets  “.

The former Minister of Defense François Léotard, for his part, is notably accused of having set up an “  opaque circuit  ” at the heart of the arms contracts signed with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, specifies the general prosecutor’s office.

This is indeed the charge. Édouard Balladur and François Léotard, for their part, claim to have played no role in the financing of the campaign. Their case had been disjointed in 2014 and referred to the Court of Justice of the Republic. Heard by his commission of instruction, the former host of Matignon declared “to ignore everything about Network K and its usefulness or its uselessness, not dealing with these questions “.

Several protagonists, including Thierry Gaubert (ex-member of the cabinet of the Minister of the Budget, Nicolas Sarkozy) and Nicolas Bazire , then director of the Balladurian campaign, as well as the controversial intermediary Ziad Takieddine – a familiar name found in the financing possible campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy by Libya in 2007 – must be tried before the ordinary courts, in this case the Paris Criminal Court from October 7 to 31 for these same facts.

What is CJR?

The Court of Justice of the Republic is made up of 15 judges, including six deputies (three from the majority, three from the opposition) and three magistrates from the Court of Cassation.

It is in France the only body empowered to try members of the government for acts committed in the exercise of their functions. Established in 1993, it is frequently contested and its existence could be called into question in a forthcoming constitutional reform.

Despite its disturbing name, it has always shown infinite leniency towards its defendants, who are not, by definition, ordinary litigants. Since its creation, it has met seven times. Unless there were scams, she handed down releases or light sentences with suspended sentences or even… dispensation.

Last convicted: the former Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas (2017). One month suspended prison sentence and 5,000 euros in fines for having transmitted confidential information to a deputy under investigation. The previous case concerned Christine Lagarde, in 2016. The former Minister of the Economy who became director of the IMF was found guilty of ”  negligence  ” in the Adidas-Tapie affair (nearly half a billion euros at the expense of of State). The CJR nevertheless exempted her from punishment because of her “  personality  ”. The last ministers actually imprisoned in France – Michel Noir, Bernard Tapie, Alain Carrignon – were in the past century, in the 1990s.