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French Interior Minister launches defamation lawsuit in face of smear campaign

[JURIST] French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; BBC profile] has initiated a defamation lawsuit against a computer specialist believed to have included his name among a list of people falsely accused of accepting kickbacks to secret bank accounts from an arms deal. Sarkozy rival Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website, in French; JURIST news archive] was questioned by judges [JURIST report] for more than 17 hours last week in connection with the his alleged role in the smear, a connection which Villepin vigorously denies..

Computer specialist Imad Lahoud [Wikipedia profile, in French] was charged with slander and doctoring lists of names that included prominent politicians earlier this year, though he is currently free on bail. The secret bank accounts he alluded to were seen as a continuing part of the Affaire Clearstream 2 [Wikipedia backgrounder, in French], named for the Luxembourg bank believed to have been involved. The fabricated lists asserted that Sarkozy and other officials laundered payments from a 1991 defense contract through Clearstream [corporate website]. Lahoud was a former scientific director for the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) [corporate website], also allegedly involved. From London, the Telegraph has more.

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