France’s Defence Minister has been cleared to speak to judges looking into the Clearstream corruption scandal, an opportunity Michele Alliot-Marie has said she welcomes. Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is also to be questioned about the alleged plot to derail the conservative front-runner’s presidential ambitions.
The judges want to find out what they know about a bogus list of accounts from the Clearstream bank. The documents had hinted at secret and suspect payments worth millions of euros. The lists held names of top business and political figures which included the highly ambitious finance minister at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, who now holds out strong hopes of becoming President.
It was Jean Louis Gergorin the former vice president of the defence firm EADS who was found to be behind letters sent to a judge implicating Sarkozy in a money laundering scandal. Those accusations were later found to be false. Likened to a soap opera because of its endless twists, the saga took a political turn when Sarkozy accused his chief rival for the top job, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, of concealing the findings of an intelligence report that had cleared him of the corruption allegations.
Newspaper reports had also said it was Villepin who ordered a senior intelligence official to find compromising evidence against Sarkozy. A claim both men deny. Villepin who rejected calls for his resignation over the scandal says he wants to have his turn before the judges to explain his role in the affair.