French ex-president Sarkozy loses challenge to cash-from-Libya case

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the funeral mass of late French Justice minister Pascal Clement at Saint Peter’s in Neuilly-sur-Seine, June 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2020

French ex-president Sarkozy loses challenge to cash-from-Libya case

  • Sarkozy has been accused by former members of Qaddafi’s regime of taking millions from the late Libyan dictator
  • Sarkozy, who quit politics after a failed comeback bid for the presidency in 2017, has accused the Paris judiciary of hounding him

PARIS: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy lost his bid Thursday to throw out an inquiry into claims he used Libyan cash for his 2007 presidential campaign, a ruling that could require him and several associates to stand trial.
A Paris appeals court upheld the validity of the investigation, launched in 2012 after reports that Sarkozy accepted millions of euros from the regime of former strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
Sarkozy, 65, has denied the allegations. His lawyer declined to comment after the hearing on whether he would appeal the decision to France’s top criminal court.
But the failed legal challenge means the inquiry by two anti-corruption judges can continue, though it remains uncertain if they will eventually seek a trial.
Sarkozy has been accused by former members of Qaddafi’s regime that he took millions from the slain Libyan dictator, some of it delivered in cash-stuffed suitcases, in his successful 2007 presidential run.
The investigation began after the Mediapart published a document in 2012, allegedly signed by Libya’s intelligence chief, purporting to show that Qaddafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to 50 million euros ($58 million at current exchange rates).
Judges are also investigating claims by a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, who said he delivered suitcases carrying a total of five million euros from the Libyan regime to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.
Also charged in the case is Alexandre Djouhri, a businessman known to be close with several top rightwing politicians, who is suspected of acting as a middleman for the cash transfers.
The former president was charged in 2018 with taking bribes, concealing the embezzlement of Libyan public funds and illegal campaign financing.
Two of his former ministers, Claude Gueant and Eric Woerth, are among several others who have also been charged in the case.
“I think the judges proved they were able to resist all sorts of pressure being put on them,” said Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer for the Sherpa anti-corruption NGO, one of the civil parties in the case.
The allegations that Sarkozy took money from Qaddafi — whom he welcomed to Paris with pomp and ceremony shortly after his election victory — are the most serious to emerge from several investigations that have dogged him since he left office.
The claims first emerged in 2011, as France and Britain were preparing a NATO-backed intervention to support rebels seeking to end Qaddafi’s tyrannical 41-year rule.
Besides the claims of cash-stuffed suitcases, investigators suspect that Sarkozy’s campaign got cash from the 2009 sale of a villa on the French Riviera to a Libyan investment fund managed by Bashir Saleh, Qaddafi’s former chief of staff.
Djouhri is suspected of being the owner of the villa, which was sold at an inflated price to mask the alleged funds from Libya.
It is not the only legal headache for Sarkozy, who has enjoyed renewed popularity since retiring, with his memoirs seeing strong sales.
He has also been charged in two other cases, one relating to fake invoices devised to mask overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign, and another for alleged influence peddling involving a top judge.
He is set to go on trial in the second case on October 5, when he will become France’s first ex-president in the dock for corruption.
Sarkozy, who quit politics after a failed comeback attempt for the 2017 presidential vote, has accused the Paris judiciary of hounding him.


Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.