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Friday, 20 March 2009

Bernard Kouchner denies corruption allegations

Source RFI


Bernard Kouchner(Photo: Reuters)


Bernard Kouchner
(Photo: Reuters)


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner qualified as “grotesque and nauseating” the allegations leveled in a book that he abused his government position to reclaim debts owed to his consulting practice from visiting heads of state.
“You cannot accuse African leaders of being corrupt and leave their Western counterparts and banking institutions in France, Switzerland, Britain and Luxemburg, who encourage them”.By Lord Aikins Adusei

“At no moment in Gabon nor elsewhere did I make use of my ministerial functions” for private gain, he said Wednesday, responding to a book by investigative journalist Pierre Péan titled The World According to K.

Kouchner is France’s most popular politician and is generally revered for having embodied France’s altruism and philanthropy across the world. Because of this, the book has provoked a national media storm, as all major dailies devoted their covers to the allegations this week, and copies of a magazine with published excerpts were distributed free to députés at the National Assembly.  

Prime Minister Francois Fillon rushed to Kouchner’s defence Wednesday, saying in a statement that “nothing justifies a man’s reputation being trampled like that following mere allegations.”

Péan traces Kouchner’s mythic career from his creation of the international humanitarian organisation Médecins sans Frontières, through his various French governmental posts to his high-profile international aid missions.

While Péan paints a picture of a man who used his connection to get ahead throughout his life, the most serious allegations stem from 2004 to 2007, the period just before Kouchner was named minister of foreign affairs. During this time, Kouchner worked as a consultant for a private firm, Imeda, which received several generous contracts to write reports for African governments.

While Kouchner is neither a partner in Imeda, nor the primary signatory of the reports, Péan claims that he used his reputation and stature to add weight to the contracts, allegedly worth 4.6 million euros.

But Péan’s primary allegation is the abuse of power, claiming that Kouchner, while foreign minister, used Gabonese President Omar Bongo’s state visit to Paris in 2007 to pressure him to pay the 817,000 euros still owed on a contract he carried out for Imeda before taking office.

Kouchner firmly denies this and his lawyer said he would probably sue Péan.

“I was a consultant for a French firm. In three years of work I earned an average of 6,000 euros per month after tax,” Kouchner said in an interview published Wednesday.

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