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Former French Prime Minister Investigated Over Alleged Kickbacks In 'Karachi Affair'

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur
Former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur

French authorities have opened a preliminary investigation into former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur in connection with a funding scandal that arose from a 1990s arms deal with Pakistan.

The so-called "Karachi Affair" dates back to 1994, when Balladur, 88, was serving as prime minister.

France won a tender to supply three submarines to Pakistan and, as was customary at the time, paid hefty commissions to people involved in putting the deal together. At the time, such payments were legal in France.

What has caused concern is not the payment of commissions, but rather alleged kickbacks taken out of those commissions and given to French politicians.

Part of that money is believed by some to have gone toward the presidential campaign of Balladur, who was making a run for president against fellow party member Jacques Chirac.

The investigative committee will determine whether Balladur will have to answer to a court.

Balladur's office said he would contest the case.

"There is no evidence in the files seen by lawyers that he personally participated in his capacity as prime minister in setting up a system of kickbacks to finance his election campaign in 1995," it said.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters