The repercussions of a bombing in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2002 continue to be felt in France. Eleven French engineers died in the attack, which it is claimed was in revenge for unpaid bribes.
When the victims’ lawyers asked investigators to find out where the money went – the trail led to the 1995 government of French Prime Minister Edourd Balladur.
And now the spotlight is on a more recent minister. Brice Hortefeux called one of the two men under suspicion to warn him of the evidence against him. Critics say that proves he had been given prior access to the case.
“This is interference at the highest level,” said the victims’ families’ lawyer Olivier Morice. “Hortefeux is a former Minister of the Interior and an advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy. This is a criminal offence and is interfering with the judicial process.”
This is bad news for Sarkozy, whose poll ratings had just started to pick up, seven months before the Presidential election. And, in addition, Edward Balladur’s budget minister and spokesman at the time of the alleged bribes was one Nicolas Sarkozy. He has strongly denied claims he was aware of any payments.
The Karachi scandal prompted then President Jacques Chirac to order an inquiry into the awarding of arms contracts. Chirac himself is under investigation for alleged misuse of funds.
This latest twist in the Karachi corruption probe is unlikely to boost public faith in France’s political elite.