John Lichfield
The Independent

September 23, 2011

An explosive financial scandal threatened President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday after two of his associates were formally accused of handling illegal kickbacks on arms contracts.

One of the President’s closest friends, Nicolas Bazire – who was best man at Mr Sarkozy’s wedding to Carla Bruni in February 2008 – was placed under formal investigation yesterday for “receiving embezzled funds”.

Mr Bazire, 54, now a luxury goods executive, is suspected of illegally handling cash kickbacks from arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 1994 and 1995 to fund the failed presidential campaign of the former Prime Minister, Édouard Balladur.

Another long-time associate of Mr Sarkozy, Thierry Gaubert, 60, was placed under formal investigation on the same possible charges on Wednesday. At the time of the alleged offences, he was the deputy head of Mr Sarkozy’s private office at the French budget ministry.

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