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The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Paris
"He is suspected of having received tens of thousands of francs"
 real 28k

Friday, 22 December, 2000, 16:01 GMT
Mitterrand son faces Christmas in jail
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand: Close relations with African leaders
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand could spend Christmas behind bars as investigations continue into his alleged involvement in arms trafficking to Angola.

Mr Mitterrand, son of the late French president Francois Mitterrand, is accused of misusing his powers to help in the sale of the weapons, and of receiving cash payments of tens of thousands of dollars from an arms dealer, Pierre Falcone.

His lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini Campinchi, filed an urgent bail application on Friday morning but the paperwork could take several days to process.

Mr Versini-Campinchi said his client had received $1.8m from Mr Falcone's arms company, Brenco International, but there was nothing illegal about the payments.

Mr Falcone faces charges of illegal weapons dealing, tax fraud and corruption.

Author and businessman Paul-Loup Sulitzer was also detained but was released after questioning.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand was Africa adviser to his father, the late president Francois Mitterrand, from 1986 to 1992.

Long-running scandal

Allegations of corruption and illegal arms deals in Angola have dogged members of the French political establishment since 1997.

Charles Pasqua
Former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua is also under investigation
A book published that year implicated Mr Falcone together with former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and the former Minister of Cooperation for Development, Michel Roussin.

Similar allegations were made in 1999 by the British-based organisation Global Witness which linked the arms trade to French interests in Angola's oil industry.

Mr Falcone already faces charges of illegal arms deals and tax fraud relating to arms sales to the Angolan Government in 1993.

Murky deals

Both Mr Mitterrand, 54, and Mr Sulitzer are suspected of acting as intermediaries for arms deals with African heads of state.

Both men have previously been questioned by police and admitted receiving money but denied any wrongdoing.

Angolan army soldiers
Angola has had nearly two decades of civil war
According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Mr Mitterrand's name was discovered on a computer disc belonging to Brenco International.

The report said the disc detailed four payments made in 1997 and 1998 into Swiss bank accounts in Mr Mitterrand's name.

Analysts believe Mr Mitterand's close relationships with a number of African leaders were used to introduce Mr Falcone to contacts in the Angolan Government.

Investigators believe he also used his influence to arrange loans for the Angolans to pay for the arms.

Arrests sought

Earlier this month France issued an international arrest warrant for Mr Falcone's business associate, Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak.

Mr Gaydamak is reported to have French, Israeli, Angolan and Canadian citizenship.

Mr Falcone and Mr Gaydamak signed a deal with Angola in 1993 for $47m worth of Russian equipment.

The following year they signed another deal worth $463m.

A former director of France's state arms export company, Bernard Poussier, is also under investigation.

Reign of secrecy

Mr Mitterrand was known by the nickname "papa-m'a-dit" (daddy told me) because of his frequent references to his father, and was criticised for conducting France's African policy in an environment of excessive secrecy.

He was said to have close personal relationships with many African leaders and their families, and to control the often complicated web of relations, both financial and political, between France and the African continent.

When questioned by a parliamentary committee in 1998 he said he only made one secret trip during his office, hardly ever took part in high-level meetings, and was only informed of important decisions such as arms treaties after they had been made.

He said: "This belies the power of this 'African cell' which was said to make the rain fall and the sun shine."

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See also:

21 Apr 98 | Analysis
France's contentious African role
22 Dec 00 | Europe
How France's 'Mr Africa' operated
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