Chirac 'got cases full of cash' from leaders
JACQUES CHIRAC, the former French president, and Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, regularly received suitcases stuffed with millions of francs from African leaders, the lawyer who said he carried the cases alleged yesterday.
Robert Bourgi, widely reported to be an unofficial "adviser" to President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he shuttled between African countries including Burkina Faso, the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal for more than 25 years.
Each time he would bring back up to 15million francs (€2.3m) in cash.
Mr de Villepin rejected the allegations, saying they were part of a "smokescreen" to deflect attention from allegations that Mr Sarkozy -- his bitter rival -- was involved in illegal party funding via kickbacks from arms sales. In an explosive interview with 'Le Journal du Dimanche' newspaper, Mr Bourgi claimed he transported "tens of millions of francs" each year, with the amounts rising in the run-up to French presidential elections -- a hint the cash was used to fund Mr Chirac's political campaigns. "I saw Chirac and Villepin count the money in front of me," he said.
He said he regularly passed on bank notes from five African presidents: Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso; Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast; Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo and Omar Bongo of Gabon, whom Mr Bourgi called "Papa". Together, he alleged, they contributed €7.5m to Mr Chirac's successful 2002 presidential campaign. A sixth leader, President Obiang N'Guema of Equatorial Guinea was allegedly the last member to join the cash donor club.
Mr Bourgi claimed that in 2005 Mr de Villepin announced the cash donations must stop. "Disappointed at being rejected", Mr Bourgi alleged he turned to Mr Sarkozy. He said he worked as an unofficial "adviser" to the president but, he insisted, "without the suitcases".
Mr Sarkozy awarded him the Legion d'honneur.
Mr de Villepin dismissed the claims as "nonsense and smokescreens", saying the timing of the interview was "not by chance".
He also pointed out that it was just three days before his appeals trial in the so-called Clearstream affair.
Mr de Villepin was cleared last year of seeking to smear Mr Sarkozy by linking his name to bank accounts, which were wrongly believed to contain laundered money.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)