Noose tightens in French defense scandal
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Noose tightens in French defense scandal

Asian dimension as French state-owned arms company faces murder, bribery allegations, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen

After years of inaction and coverup, details are emerging in France of the sale of armaments by the French state-owned defense contractor DCNS to countries across the world including Pakistan, Malaysia, Chile, India, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, with bribes and kickbacks built into DCNS’s budget, ensnaring politicians across the globe.

Allegations involving DCNS, formerly known as DCN, range from murder to bribery and corruption and go from defense procurement officials in each of those countries to some of the top politicians in France.

Under the French legal system, prosecutors under the control of the Ministry of Justice must make a preliminary enquiry, during which no one has access to the files, so that any information the police have obtained cannot be shared. The prosecutors have been stymied for years by the ministry. However, investigators appear to be losing their awe of politicians all the way up to President Nicholas Sarkozy.

In September, for instance, Nicholas Bazire, 54, the best man at Sarkozy’s wedding to supermodel Carla Bruni, was arrested and charged with misuse of public funds in the 1995 presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur. Sarkozy was Balladur’s campaign spokesman and budget minister at the time. Another friend, Thierry Gaubert, Sarkozy’s cabinet chief when he was budget and communication minister, was arrested earlier. Sarkozy is seeking avoid the appointment of an instruction judge in an effort to keep the cases under control. But the political knives may be out for Sarkozy.

That increases the chances that investigating judges will allow prosecutors a more detailed look at DCNS’s books to probe kickbacks in Pakistan, where 11 French submarine engineers were killed in a bomb attack, and Taiwan, where a number of murders and suicides have been recorded in connection with the sale of frigates to Taiwan’s navy. The details can be found here.

William Bourdon, the leader of a three-lawyer team investigating Malaysia’s US$1 billion purchase of submarines from DCNS for the Malaysian reform organization Suaram, earlier told Asia Sentinel he hoped his team would have access to the files by October. Bourdon was summarily deported from Malaysia in July after giving a speech in Penang describing some of the details of the allegations.