Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has spoken to judges investigating an apparent smear campaign against the conservative frontrunner for the 2007 presidential elections. The affair began with anonymous allegations in 2004 that Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and others had accounts in Luxembourg-based finance house. ‘Clearstream International’ has been linked to kickbacks in the bribe-ridden sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.
Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie whose boyfriend’s name appeared on the list of accounts has been cleared to give evidence. “Since the beginning I’ve tried to help in this matter because we need to clear this up. Also, somebody close to me was implicated and I want to know why,” she says. The scandal implicates current Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who has denied using the secret services to hurt his arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy and has rejected calls for his resignation.
Speaking about the accusations in May this year he said: “It’s too much, too much. How can we accept in this country that we can implicate people on the basis of false information? How can we accept that people from the right or left could be unjustly accused in this affair”. De Villepin has made it known that he too would like to give evidence. The scandal has shaken the nation as it prepares to confirm candidates for next year’s presidential elections. It is widely believed that the whole affair was orchestrated as an elaborate attempt to discredit Sarkozy.