Robert Bourgi, a lawyer who advised Chirac and his prime minister Dominique de Villepin on African affairs, told a French Sunday newspaper that Chirac received the money while still mayor of Paris in the 1980s and 90s. Bourgi said he was personally charged with delivering the money to Chirac. According to Bourgi the amounts varied, but were never less than 5 million francs (now about €750 000, or around R7.5 million).
The money was sent largely by North and West African leaders, and went towards funding election campaigns. Those named include Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore, Côte d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso and Gabon’s Omar Bongo. A representative of Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade has denied the accusations, but the former right-hand man of Laurent Gbagbo confirmed to AFP that Bourgi’s claims were correct.
This is bad news for Chirac and De Villepin for a number of reasons. Firstly, if true, this suggests that corruption under Chirac was pretty much endemic. Secondly, Dominique de Villepin may be running for president in next year’s elections, and these rumours will do him no favours. Thirdly, as The Guardian points out, it paints a disturbing picture of France’s foreign policy, particularly with regards to African countries – a system characterised by “kick-backs, petro-dollars and privileged relations”. Chirac and De Villepin have said they will lay defamation charges, but with political opponents eagerly leaping on this, it will likely take more than that for this latest stink to go away. DM
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