Twist in Presidential race as leading candidate accused of authorising arms deal kickbacks

Much as I love the details of the Iowa caucuses, they aren’t really the Presidential race political news which should be catching the British news headlines at the moment.

Yes, they’re fun and engrossing but they’re also mostly irrelevant – the winner of the Iowa caucus frequently does not get their own party’s nomination (and there there’s always the little matter of the actual public election). So who wins in Iowa will have little direct influence on the UK.

However, over the Channel in France there is also a Presidential election coming, and – as Nicolas Sarkozy’s actions over Libya and the Euro-summit have shown – the choice of French President has significant implications for our own foreign policy and even economic prospects.

So that makes the Presidential race news this week which really matters this:

President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing new allegations of involvement in an old weapons sales scandal four months ahead of French presidential elections, according to court testimony disclosed by the daily Libération.

The newspaper yesterday (2 January) quoted testimony from a former defence official who said Sarkozy authorised in 1994 the creation of a shell company to pay kickbacks on large French arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Sarkozy was budget minister at the time.

Gérard-Philippe Menayas, a senior Defence Ministry official at that time, told Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke that Sarkozy had agreed establishing the Heine firm in Luxembourg, seen as pivotal in a scheme using kickbacks from arms sales to fund the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur in 1995. Sarkozy was Balladur’s campaign spokesperson. (EurActiv)

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