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France's Ex-Leaders Deny Receiving Millions From West Africa

  • Lisa Bryant

Former French president Jacques Chirac. (file photo)

Former French president Jacques Chirac. (file photo)

France's former president and prime minister are denying accusations they accepted millions of dollars from West African leaders to finance election campaigns. The allegations add to others dogging France's former presidency.

Paris lawyer Robert Bourgi claims that African leaders offered briefcases full of cash to former president Jacques Chirac and his then-prime minister Dominique de Villepin, between 1995 and 2005 to finance election campaigns.

Bourgi, who was an advisor to Mr. Chirac at the time, says he personally delivered the money to the two politicians. Mr. Bourgi's claims were published Sunday in the weekly Journal du Dimanche, but he has since repeated them to various media -- including in this interview with RTL radio.

Bourgi said he wanted to turn the page on a past of which he was not proud. He said he could not say no to the former president, but that he was ashamed of his actions.

Both Mr. Chirac and Mr. Villepin say they will file complaints against Bourgi.

On French TV, Mr. Villepin has denounced Bourgi's accusations as lies and a willful attempt to tarnish Mr. Chirac's presidency. The allegations come at a time when both Mr. Chirac and Mr. Villepin are on trial in unrelated scandals.

Mr. Villepin is also running for next year's presidential elections against a bitter rival, current French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Bourgi has not implicated in his claims. The accusations also provide political fodder for the opposition Socialist Party as it prepares for the 2012 vote. Socialist politicians have called for an inquiry.

According to Bourgi, current or former African leaders who offered the cash include those from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon. The French news agency reported Senegal has denied handing over any cash, while a former aide to ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo confirmed a transfer of money had taken place.

Allegations of corruption and nepotism have long dogged France's long and complicated ties with a number of African countries. When President Sarkozy took office in 2007, he promised a new chapter in French-African relations.

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