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Villepin swipes at Sarkozy over Clearstream

Villepin swipes at Sarkozy over Clearstream
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A bitter feud between former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken another twist in an investigation into a smear scandal. Villepin, a suspect in the so-called Clearstream affair, says the case is biased in favour of Sarkozy.

Before going into an interview with investigating magistrates he said he had supplied them with an 80-page document that would show his innocence. It is the first time he has been summoned to appear before them. Villepin is suspected of using intelligence services to try to dig up dirt on his arch-rival three years before this spring’s presidential election.

The scandal erupted in 2004 when claims were made that Sarkozy and a group of other senior politicians used the Luxembourg-based bank, Clearstream, to hide kick-backs from the sale of two navy frigates to Taiwan. The anonymous claims proved to be false and magistrates focused their investigation on who was behind them.

Villepin says his ministerial roles at the time obliged him to order intelligence agents to examine whether Sarkozy was linked to the affair. Sarkozy’s supporters believe this was an attempt to smear him.