Doubt cast on link between French bribes and Karachi bombing

It’s the latest twist in a maze-like international corruption scandal that has sent tremors through the French political establishment and seen some of France’s top public figures accused of having blood on their hands.Michel Mazens, former chairman of private French armaments agency SOFRESA, has denied any link between bribes paid to Pakistan in a 1994 arms sale and a suicide bombing in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers in 2002. The claim by Mazens, published on Monday in an interview in French left-leaning daily Libération, directly contradicts media reports that the attack was likely retaliation against France for halting the bribes.

The “Karachi affair,”as it has been named in France, has ensnared a handful of players from the top ranks of the French ruling class: a judge is investigating whether the bribes included illegal kickbacks used to fund the presidential campaign of then-Prime Minister Edouard Balladur; the director of Balladur’s 1995 bid for the presidency was none other than current President Nicolas Sarkozy; and former President Jacques Chirac, as well as former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, are facing a civil suit that accuses them of endangering the lives of French citizens abroad by cutting off the suspected cash flow to Balladur and thus inciting the 2002 attacks.‘No connection between the two’

In the interview with Libération, Mazens, a key witness in the case, admitted that the illegal payments were indeed stopped, but said: “The attack happened a long time after [the kickbacks were stopped]. I don’t think there is any connection between the two. I never received any information that would have made me think there was”.The 11 French engineers killed in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in 2002 were employees of the state-owned shipbuilder Direction des Constructions Navales, which supplied the Pakistani military three Agosta submarines.Families of the victims of the Karachi attack allege that sale commissions from the deal were used to make illegal contributions to Balladur’s 1995 presidential campaign. Balladur lost his presidential bid to Chirac, who then scrapped a number of defence commissions to Pakistani military officers.French media reports have suggested that the attack on the French engineers in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi was in retaliation for the scrapped defence commissions.But Mazen’s latest statements to Libération appear to weaken the case against Chirac and Villepin by casting doubt over whether the attacks that killed the French workers were in fact a direct response to France’s scrapping of the arms commissions. Many analysts have already said that the link between the killings and supposed Pakistani ire over the cancellation of the commissions would be difficult to prove – France24