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French Former PM Balladur Acquitted In 'Karachi Affair'

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur (right) and former Defense Minister Francois Leotard in Paris in 1998.

A French court has acquitted former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur on corruption charges over an arms deal with Pakistan in the mid-1990s.

However, the Court of Justice of the Republic on March 4 handed a suspended two-year prison term and a fine of 100,000 euros ($120,000) to his former defense minister, Francois Leotard, for complicity in misusing assets.

Six people were jailed over the so-called "Karachi affair" last year.

Balladur, 91, and Leotard, 78, were charged in 2017 with "complicity in misuse of corporate assets and concealment" over the sale of submarines to Pakistan.

Balladur was accused of using commissions from the deal to fund his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995.

Investigations into the matter began after 11 French engineers were killed in a bombing in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in 2002.

Pakistani authorities blamed Islamist militants, but there were suspicions that the attack was an act of revenge after then-French President Jacques Chirac allegedly ordered the payments of the commissions to stop.

The verdict comes three days after ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted for bribery and influence peddling, and handed a three-year sentence -- including one year of prison time and two more years of a suspended sentence.

His predecessor, Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money as Paris mayor and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Based on reporting by AFP and the BBC