Nicolas Bazire. – File Photo by AFP

PARIS: An aide of French former president Nicolas Sarkozy was on Monday charged in an illegal political funding scandal known as the “Karachi Affair,” a complex probe into alleged kickbacks on arms deals.

Nicolas Bazire, the current number two of luxury group LVMH, was heard by judges for four hours and accused of handling illicit funds used for political campaigns.

A former campaign manager for ex-prime minister Edouard Balladur, Bazire had been under investigation since September.

Investigators are looking into irregularities in the financing of Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign. Sarkozy was Balladur's campaign spokesman and budget minister at the time.

Judges suspect Balladur's campaign of receiving illicit “retro-commissions” from the sale of French submarines to Pakistan. Two Sarkozy political aides and a former minister are under formal investigation over the affair.

Judges are also probing claims that a 2002 bombing in Karachi that killed 11 French naval engineers was carried out by Pakistani agents in revenge for the cancellation of bribes secretly promised to officials.

The payment of arms sales commissions was legal in France until 2000, but the payment of kickbacks back to France was and is illegal.

The probe focuses on the 1994 sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia.

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