A decision that comes more than 25 years after the unfortunate presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur.
This Thursday, the Court of Justice of the Republic, which ruled in one of the aspects of the Karachi case, decided to release the former head of government on suspicion of complicity in the abuse of social good.
The former minister François Léotard was sentenced to a 2-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 euros.
Both were absent when the judgment was read.
Their trial opened on January 19, seven months after severe convictions in the non-governmental aspect of the same case against six protagonists, including businessman Ziad Takieddine and former relatives of the two ministers. .
All have appealed.
As for the judgments of the CJR, they are not subject to appeal, only an appeal in cassation being possible.
Karachi case: a scathing indictment against Edouard Balladur
The prosecution had requested on February 2 a year of suspended prison sentence and a 50,000 euros fine against Edouard Balladur, tried at 91 for "complicity" and "concealment" of abuse of corporate assets.
A two-year suspended prison sentence and 100,000 euros fine was requested against François Léotard, 78, prosecuted for "complicity".
The controversial court, the CJR, is the only one empowered to try members of the government for offenses committed in the exercise of their functions.
A "seriousness of the facts"
In this file dating back a quarter of a century, the former Prime Minister is accused of having partly financed his 1995 electoral campaign via illegal retrocommissions paid on the sidelines of major armament contracts.
"Rude accusations", based on "delusional theories", ridiculed the lawyers of Edouard Balladur, who was absent during the indictment and defense pleadings.
For the Attorney General François Molins, the former tenant of Matignon (1993-1995) knew "the fraudulent origin" of the funds which partly fed his campaign account.
Despite the "gravity of the facts", the prosecution asked the Court to take into account the time elapsed and the age of the defendants.
Edouard Balladur and François Léotard are accused of having imposed on two state-owned entities - which negotiated the sale of submarines and frigates to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - a network of “useless” intermediaries on the commissions "Pharaonic", the armament contracts then being almost finalized.
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According to the prosecution, a portion of the approximately "550 million francs" (or "117 million euros") actually paid to this network partially fed into the campaign account of candidate Balladur, then engaged in a fratricidal war on the right. with Jacques Chirac.
At the heart of the file is a cash deposit of 10.25 million francs (1.5 million euros) without proof of the candidate's account - in deficit - three days after his defeat in the first round.
Three acquittals and three suspended sentences
Edouard Balladur has always said that these funds came from donations from activists and the sale of gadgets at public meetings.
For the prosecution, there is a "link" between this sum and the cash withdrawn in Geneva a few days earlier by "useless" intermediaries.
"Guesses" without "evidence", "rumors", estimated the lawyers of Edouard Balladur and François Léotard, who pleaded for the release of the defendants.
In front of the Court, the latter firmly denied any infringement.
“I feel perfectly at ease”, launched Edouard Balladur during his questioning, insisting at length on the fact that his campaign account had been “expressly validated” by the Constitutional Council in October 1995. For his supporters, this decision is authentic and the facts alleged against Edouard Balladur are therefore "archi, completely prescribed".
Suspicions of secret financing of the Balladur campaign only emerged in 2010, during the investigation into the attack in Karachi on May 8, 2002, which claimed the lives of 11 French people working in the construction of sub- sailors.
Still in progress, the investigation into this attack initially focused on Al-Qaeda, then explored the one - not confirmed to date - of reprisals after the end of the payment of commissions, once Jacques Chirac was elected president.
Since its creation in 1993, the Court has issued three acquittals, two exemptions from the sentence and three suspended sentences.