- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Almost exactly a year ago, Saif al-Qaddafi made this puzzling accusation about French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
“Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it and we have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given assistance so that he could help them. But he’s disappointed us: give us back our money. We have all the bank details and documents for the transfer operations and we will make everything public soon.”
The allegation wasn’t taken too seriously at the time, given the source. But it has resurfaced this week thanks to a report by the investigative website Mediapart, which includes a leaked document that it says proves that the Qaddafis financed Sarkozy’s campaign to the tune of €50 million. The document had been part of the evidence in an investigation of the ties between Sarkozy’s circle and a Middle Eastern arms dealer.
Huffington Post UK summarizes:
The documents make specific reference to Ziad Takieddine, a middle man in huge arms and petrol contracts between France and various Middle Eastern countries.
It is claimed Takieddine went to Tripoli 11 times to supervise the transaction in 2005, “the year where a payment of €50m (£42m) would have been concluded between the Libyans and Sarkozy camp.”
It also claims Brice Hortefeux, Sarkozy’s long time friend, advisor, and later interior minister, “intervened personally” in the financial operations. According to Mediapart, Hortefeux has denied any involvement in the events.
Mediapart said the document was “drafted and handed over to investigators by a witness to the dossier, Jean-Charles Brisard, ex member of (former prime minister) Eduard Balladur’s campaign team in 1995, now director of a private intelligence company.”
The cryptic three-line note published by MediaPart doesn’t really seem like smoking gun, but the story’s been picked up by other major media outlets in France. This isn’t exactly welcome news for Sarkozy’s struggling reelection campaign, particularly at a time when he’s trying to outflank the far-right on culture war issues and Islam.
Sarkozy described the allegation as "grotesque" adding, "If [Qaddafi] did finance my campaign, I wasn’t very grateful." It is true, as Issandr al-Amrani notes, that if Qaddafi did make an investment in Sarkozy, he didn’t really get his money’s worth from the president who spearheaded last year’s bombing campaign.