LONG-STANDING rumours that the former French president Jacques Chirac holds a secret multi-million-euro bank account in Japan appear to have been confirmed by files seized from the home of a senior spy.
Papers seized by two investigating magistrates from General Philippe Rondot, a former head of the DGSE, France's intelligence service, show Mr Chirac opened an account in the mid-1990s at Tokyo Sowa Bank, credited with the equivalent of £30 million. It is not known where the money came from, nor whether it is connected to various kick-back scandals to which Mr Chirac's name has been linked over the past decade.
Last year, Mr Chirac "categorically denied" having a bank account in Japan.
The seized documents have been described by the magistrates as "explosive" and are believed to contain copies of the former president's bank statements.
A magistrate close to the investigation told the satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné: "Subject to verification of the documents, there is enough material to open a new judicial investigation for breach of trust or for possession of money received from corruption. Moreover, the investigating judges have everything necessary to trace the network back to its ringleaders."
Mr Chirac, who was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy last week after 12 years as president, looks certain to be questioned about the account - as well as several other alleged corruption scandals dating from his time as mayor of Paris - when his presidential immunity runs out on 16 June.
The alleged evidence was discovered by judges Jean-Marie d'Huy and Henri Pons after they seized 112 bound files and numerous other documents from the home of Gen Rondot in connection with their inquiry into an alleged smear campaign. Dubbed "The French Watergate", it centred on whether Dominique de Villepin, the then prime minister, had asked Gen Rondot to dig up dirt on Mr Sarkozy, then interior minister, who had been wrongly accused of receiving kickbacks from the £1.4 billion sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.
Claims of Mr Chirac's secret nest egg first came to the attention of the French authorities in 1996 when his friend Shoichi Osada, a Japanese banker, decided to invest £500 million in France, so triggering a routine investigation by the DGSE, which is said to have stumbled upon the then president's Japanese account.
Thrown into a panic, Mr Chirac is said to have summoned Gen Rondot in 2001 and ordered him to destroy all DGSE evidence of the account. Unfortunately for the president, the spy simply removed the notes and memos about the affair to his home, where they were seized in March last year by Mr d'Huy and Mr Pons. Since then, the judges have been discreetly pursuing an investigation, interviewing 20 intelligence officers about the affair.
Mr Chirac is reported to have struck a deal with Mr Sarkozy, whereby the latter will push through judicial reforms ensuring the ex-president escapes prosecution. However, the magistrates are expected to move before the reforms are passed this summer.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Jacques Chirac's Secret Fortune
Anybody wanna place a bet on how much of this came from Saddam Hussein?