Former French president Jacques Chirac and his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, have been accused of taking $20 million in illicit payments from African heads of state, allegations that both men deny. Lawyer Robert Bourgi, a onetime aide to the politicians, made the accusations in a radio station interview today, Reuters reports. Bourgi claims that between 1995 and 2005 he acted as a "bag carrier" and handed over the money, which was sometimes hidden in African drums and was paid out by the leaders of former French colonies like Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Congo.
"I saw Chirac and Villepin count the money," Bourgi said. Both former leaders plan to sue. Villepin is seven months away from a possible run against Nicolas Sarkozy, who Bourgi also advised, though the lawyer noted that he never brought any cash to the current president. Villepin’s supporters and some others, however, question that denial. "It is not credible," one former Chirac adviser says. "Nothing ended with Sarkozy." Chirac is currently battling charges of misusing public funds.