Charles Pasqua, a former French minister of interior, has emerged as one of the highest-ranking targets of the widening investigations into the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.
United Nations, US and French investigators are examining Iraqi documents that show officials in Baghdad were instructed to transfer his lucrative oil allocations to an offshore company, to shield him from criticism.
Mr Pasqua's alleged role has emerged as inquiries turn to the role of foreign governments in the corruption within the humanitarian aid programme. France and Russia, which opposed the 2003 invasion, have long been accused in the US of being too close to Saddam Hussein's regime.
Early on Tuesday, Bernard Guillet, Mr Pasqua's diplomatic adviser, was arrested at home in Paris in connection with the oil-for-food inquiry, on the orders of Philippe Courroye, a French investigative judge. Mr Guillet was yesterday in police custody.The FT has another longer article which mentions a few other facts about M Pasqua:
Charles Pasqua has been a central figure in French politics for three decades. Once described as the man who knows all the secrets, he served twice as minister of interior, first in the late 1980s when Jacques Chirac was prime minister and again in the left-right co-habitation of the Mitterrand presidency of the early 1990s.
For years French magistrates have been investigating his financial records, probing allegations that he received bribes and illicit funds generated by influence-trafficking and other activities, including arms sales to Angola.
Mr Pasqua has never been convicted of any wrongdoing. Indeed last September he won a seat in the French Senate - a position which confers immunity against prosecution.The story behind that last sentence is fascinating. The Torygraph explained last year just how friendly M Pasqua is with l'Escroc in chief, and indeed with Sarko.
Mr Pasqua and Mr Chirac, both Gaullists, have been political allies for more than 30 years. Mr Chirac's presidential status has brought with it immunity from prosecution on a number of alleged corruption charges.
In a recent interview Mr Pasqua also let it be known that had he stood as a rival candidate in the 1995 presidential elections "Chirac wouldn't have been elected". This was seen as a hint that there had been an agreement between the two men, which he expected Mr Chirac to honour.
As Philippe Courroye, the judge leading the investigation, closed in on Mr Pasqua, the seasoned politician announced that he would be standing for election to the Senat only two weeks before the vote.
Mr Pasqua's campaign was apparently supported by Nicolas Sarkozy, the finance minister, to whom he has acted as a mentor and who hopes to take over as UMP president in a party vote in November.
His fate seems to have made allies of Mr Sarkozy and Mr Chirac - who have become deadly political rivals - on at least one issue.
The Left-wing daily newspaper, Liberation, reported: "The Godfather Returns. For once Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy were in agreement: We have to save Charles Pasqua."[Aside: One wonders why Sarko was willing to support him and wonders whether Sarko accepted a certain honorarium in return. It is, in fact, precisely this lack of pickiness about his pals that worries me most about Sarko, I doubt he personally has touched any redirected funds but I would be very unsurprised if he hasn't received funding from places that shouldn't be providing it in return for certain favours.]