- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

PARIS — A former French secret agent has accused President Jacques Chirac of ordering him to run a private secret service to channel ransom money to hostage-takers in Lebanon and Bosnia.

Jean-Charles Marchiani, 62, also a former member of the European Parliament, made the assertions at the start of his trial this week on charges of receiving about $1.5 million in kickbacks from military contractors.

Investigators want to know why and how Mr. Marchiani amassed several million euros in his Swiss bank accounts.

Prosecutors say some of the money came from an illicit commission paid by the German company, Renk, to secure a contract supplying tank gearboxes.

But Mr. Marchiani said the money was transferred to his accounts to set up an “intelligence outfit” on the orders of former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua in the mid-1980s, when Mr. Chirac was prime minister.

“It was a system put in place at the request of Charles Pasqua in place of the official secret services,” said Mr. Marchiani.

Mr. Marchiani said he used the funds to secure the release of hostages in Lebanon, held by Hezbollah in 1986.

“We did not collaborate with the French secret services; we worked in their place,” he said.

The official French line is that Paris never has paid for the release of hostages.

Two years later, on the eve of presidential elections, which Mr. Chirac lost to Francois Mitterrand, Mr. Marchiani went to the prime minister’s office.

“I asked Chirac: ‘Shall we continue the outfit regardless?’ He had a moment’s hesitation, then said: ‘Keep it going,’” Mr. Marchiani told the court.

Mr. Marchiani said that the parallel intelligence service also was behind the release of French jet pilots held hostage in Bosnia in 1995, shortly after Mr. Chirac was elected president.

“Jacques Chirac sent me. He knew me for ages,” he said.

As president, Mr. Chirac would not be expected to testify in court. But his former Cabinet secretary, Maurice Ulrich, categorically denied the assertions.

“Jean-Charles Marchiani, is seeking through a real fact — the liberation of hostages in Lebanon — to justify a financial and intelligence network that never existed,” he said.

Another former prime minister, Edouard Balladur, also denied any knowledge of a parallel intelligence service.

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