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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 17:07 GMT
Mitterrand son quizzed on arms deal
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand at Paris court house
Mr Mitterrand maintains he is innocent
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of the former French President, has been questioned by judges in Paris over his alleged involvement in arms sales to Angola in the early 1990s.


I answered all their questions in normal fashion

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand
It was the first time Mr Mitterrand had been able to explain himself at length before the two investigating magistrates.

Mr Mitterrand was released from jail earlier this month after his mother paid a bail of 5 million francs ($700,000).

''I answered all their questions in normal fashion,'' Mr Mitterrand said after being interrogated for five hours.

Angolan army soldiers
Angola has endured more than two decades of civil war

African adviser

His attorneys said the judges had not presented any evidence of wrongdoing.

''There is nothing. You¿'e going to be very disappointed,'' one lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi told reporters.

In the past, Mr Mitterrand had refused to co-operate with the judges and had accused one of the judges of being motivated by hatred.

But Mr Versini-Campinchi said Wednesday's session had taken place in cordial atmosphere.

Swiss bank account

The judges are trying to determine why Mr Mitterrand, who served as his father Francois Mitterrand's African adviser for six years, received a payment in 1997 of $1.8m into a Swiss bank account from an arms firm, Brenco International.

Former President Francois Mitterrand
Francois Mitterrand era tainted
Brenco is under investigation over an unauthorised sale of $500m worth of arms to Angola three years earlier and the judges suspect Mr Mitterrand was paid the commission for using his contacts to set the deal up.

Mr Mitterrand says he simply helped arrange a loan to the Angolan Government, though he admits he never declared his fee to the tax authorities.

Illegal gifts

The prosecution has asked for the investigation to be dropped because proper procedures were not followed.

Correspondents say the inquiry can only increase the worsening reputation for secrecy and corruption surrounding the whole Francois Mitterrand era.

By coincidence, France is currently transfixed by the trial of his long-standing Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, who is accused of benefiting from illegal gifts from the oil company Elf to fund his lavish lifestyle.

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