Jacques Chirac ‘given briefcases of election cash by African leaders’

 African leaders regularly gave briefcases of cash to Jacques Chirac, the former French president, and Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, to fund election campaigns, an Africa expert close to President Nicolas Sarkozy has claimed.


The allegations sparked a fresh row over the role of shadowy middlemen and dirty money in French dealings with Africa. The system known as françafrique, in which kick-backs, petro-dollars and privileged relations defined Paris's foreign policy, is back in the spotlight in the run-up to next year's presidential campaign.


A Parisian lawyer, Robert Bourgi, who advised Chirac and De Villepin on African affairs before switching allegiance to their rival Sarkozy, described how between 1995 and 2005 he allegedly acted as a "bag carrier" at the highest level of the French state.



He claimed he delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from African leaders to Chirac and De Villepin, mostly stuffed into briefcases, but once hidden in a set of African drums, or in a sports bag that was so full of notes he got backache carrying it through the underground corridors of the Elysée palace.


He said the only time he was afraid was while driving through Paris during street demonstrations with €4m (£3.4m) in low-denomination notes in the boot of his car.


"There was never less than 5m [French] francs. It could go up to 15 million," Bourgi told Le Journal du Dimanche, describing how he had allegedly helped deliver cash to Chirac as mayor of Paris before he became president. He said Chirac would offer him a beer while putting the wads of cash into a vault.


Bourgi claimed five African heads of states, including Ivory Coast's ousted leader Laurent Gbagbo and Omar Bongo of Gabon, paid around $10m for Chirac's 2002 election campaign.


The allegations come before publication next week of an explosive book, The Republic of the Briefcases, by journalist Pierre Péan, which will examine the role of businessmen and Africa advisers and suggest Sarkozy also benefited from African leaders.


Bourgi said when he went to work for Sarkozy, there were no briefcases of cash. But a Chirac adviser, Michel de Bonnecorse, claims in Péan's book that cash from African leaders was also given to Sarkozy when he was interior minister. The Elysée refused to comment.


De Villepin denounced claims that he or Chirac took money as "nonsense and smokescreens" and an effort to smear them.


A spokeswoman for Sarkozy's ruling rightwing UMP party said if Bourgi had evidence of any wrongdoing he should go to the police.


François Hollande, the Socialist who is favourite to stand against Sarkozy in the 2012 presidential election, demanded a judicial inquiry. He said Bourgi, currently an official adviser to Sarkozy, claimed he had been an intermediary for Chirac and De Villepin, but not Sarkozy. "I'd like to believe him," he said. "But he should be held to account."

 via Guardian UK

France maintains a strong hold on its former colonies in Africa

Former French president and his premier Dominique de Villepin given millions in notes to fund elections, Africa expert alleges