Sarkozy accused of taking cash from African leaders
FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy received cash from West African leaders, it was alleged yesterday, following claims that Jacques Chirac, the former French president, and Dominique de Villepin, his prime minister, received an estimated €14m stuffed into briefcases over eight years.
The scandal has cast fresh light on France's historically murky ties to African dictators who, for decades, allegedly doled out dirty petrodollars to French politicians in exchange for diplomatic and military support in a set-up known as 'Francafrique'.
Robert Bourgi claimed on Sunday that he personally handed millions of francs from five African leaders to Mr Chirac when he was mayor of Paris and later president, along with Mr Villepin, his right-hand man. Both deny the claim.
Mr Bourgi (66) said the money, which he variously transported in a sports bag, a poster and even a ceremonial African drum, came from Burkina Faso, the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
Yesterday, he estimated having lugged a total of €14m to Mr Chirac and Mr Villepin between 1997 and 2005. About half went into funding Mr Chirac's successful 2002 electoral campaign, he claimed.
Bernard Houdin, an adviser to Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivory Coast president, said such payments were "a historical practice" and that "the sums mentioned are no doubt below reality".
Mr Bourgi also alleged that other former presidents benefited, including Georges Pompidou, Valerie Giscard d'Estaing and the Socialist Francois Mitterrand. However, he insisted he never handed cash to Mr Sarkozy.
In an interview with newspaper 'Le Journal du Dimanche', Mr Bourgi said he switched allegiance to Mr Sarkozy -- a bitter rival of Mr Villepin -- in 2005, acting as unofficial 'adviser', but, he insisted, "without the briefcases".
However, that claim was countered by Jean-Francois Probst, a former Chirac aide, like Mr Bourgi with various links to African leaders.
Nothing stopped with Mr Sarkozy," Mr Probst alleged yesterday. To say otherwise was "not credible".
Claims that Mr Sarkozy received cash from Mr Bourgi are also made in a book by journalist Pierre Pean called 'The Briefcase Republic', out next week.
Both Mr Chirac and Mr Villepin intend to sue Mr Bourgi for defamation. Henri Guaino, a Mr Sarkozy aide, said: "Neither the Elysee, nor those working for the president, nor the president himself, are involved in this affair."
Burkina Faso rejected the allegations as "grotesque". Senegal also dismissed the claims. (© Daily Telegraph, London)