French ex-PM in smear probe

Dominique de Villepin alleged to have tried to ruin Sarkozy's presidential hopes.

    Nicolas Sarkozy lodged a complaint with magistrates last year [EPA]

    Villepin has denied any wrongdoing and returned home from a holiday late on Thursday to be on hand when judges searched his office in central Paris on Friday.

    "I have just been through moments which, as you can imagine, are not very pleasant but I know the truth will emerge," French media quoted Villepin as saying on Friday evening.

    Anonymous tip-off

    The scandal began in 2004 when anonymous letters were sent to an examining magistrate alleging Sarkozy and a group of other senior politicians held accounts in Clearstream, a financial clearing house in Luxembourg.

    The money was said to be linked to the sale of frigates to Taiwan in 1991, but the accounts proved untrue.
     
    Judicial sources said that deleted files retrieved from the computer of an intelligence officer suggested Villepin himself had encouraged the anonymous tip-off to the magistrate.

    The sources have said Villepin could be placed under formal investigation for complicity in false accusations.

    Such a move would not imply guilt, but would be unprecedented against a former prime minister in modern French history.

    Official complaint

    Sarkozy lodged an official complaint with magistrates last year, saying he had been the victim of a smear campaign, but did not give any names in his deposition.

    Villepin has repeatedly denied allegations that he tried to stoke the scandal and was questioned by magistrates for 17 hours in December.

    He has said he ordered a routine check of the Clearstream accounts when the bank details first came to light and immediately dropped the probe when it became clear that all the documents had been falsified.

    Sarkozy says he was not informed about the allegations until months later and knew nothing about Villepin's investigation, despite the fact that they were serving in the same government.

     

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Unification: Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem

    Unification: Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem

    We explore how Salah Ed-Din unified the Muslim states and recaptured the holy city of Jerusalem from the crusaders.