Ex-defence minister probed in French kickbacks scandal

Ex-defence minister probed in French kickbacks scandal

Paris (AFP) - Former French defence minister Francois Leotard has been placed under formal investigation in a probe into an arms corruption scandal dating to the 1990s, a source close to the inquiry said Tuesday.

Leotard, 75, was questioned on July 4 over suspected "complicity in abuse of social assets," the source said, confirming a report in Canard Enchaine, the satirical and political news weekly.

Leotard becomes the second former minister to be placed under formal investigation, a status roughly equivalent to being indicted, after ex-premier Edouard Balladur.

The probe centres on a web of corruption behind the 1994 sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia, with suspicions that kickbacks went to fund Balladur's presidential bid in 1995.

The investigation is being carried out by the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), a court specially set up to probe cases of ministerial misconduct.

Magistrates are also probing whether a 2002 Karachi bombing that killed 11 French engineers was revenge for the cancellation of bribes secretly promised to Pakistani officials.

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