Paris prosecutor drops probe into cash from Africa

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 4:27 PM
Paris prosecutor drops probe into cash from Africa

The Paris prosecutor's office has dropped a preliminary investigation into a lawyer's claims that he arranged the handover of suitcases of cash from African leaders for then-French President Jacques Chirac, an official with the prosecutor's office said Wednesday.

The official said the probe was dropped for lack of evidence and because the statute of limitations on the alleged wrongdoing had expired. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.

Lawyer Robert Bourgi shocked France's political class in September, when he alleged in an interview with Europe-1 radio that he had acted as a go-between, helping to facilitate the delivery of attache cases filled with cash for Chirac and former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Bourgi alleged he helped funnel over an estimated $20 million in illegal payments from West African leaders between 1995 and 2005, including $10 million from the leaders of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Republic of Congo for Chirac's 2002 presidential campaign.

Bourgi told the media he made the belated allegations to ease his conscience.

Both Villepin's and Chirac's lawyers denounced the claims, which they said were politically motivated. Lawyers for the men pledged to bring a lawsuit against Bourgi, but neither has filed one to date.

The judicial source said Bourgi acknowledged in police questioning on Sept. 22 that he didn't have any proof to back up the allegations. He also stressed that he hadn't carried the suitcases himself, nor had he received any remuneration for helping arrange the payments, the official said.

Bourgi told investigators the practice came to an end in 2005, on the orders of then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, France's current president.