By MAGGIE MICHAEL
CAIRO (AP) — A top aide to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi said on Monday he fears arrest if he returns to Libya over what he may know about corruption allegations against France’s ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and Gadhafi’s alleged financial support to the former France leader.
Moftah Missouri, Gadhafi’s chief interpreter and also his adviser since 1996, told The Associated Press that he attended a meeting in 2005 between France’s then-Interior Minister Sarkozy and Gadhafi.
Missouri, who is now living in exile in Tunisia, said over the phone that Gadhafi told Sarkozy during the meeting that he’s “pleased to have a friend like you as a president of France.”
Sarkozy allegedly revealed his aspirations to run for president and according to Missouri, Gadhafi told Sarkozy: “We will help you if you run in the election.”
Sarkozy’s lawyer and spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
The Gahdafi-Sarkozy meeting, Missouri said, took place inside Gadhafi’s sprawling tent in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and lasted for about 45 minutes. Officials from both sides attended but Missouri said he does not remember the exact date.
“The talk was in general terms,” Missouri said, adding that Gadhafi and Sarkozy did not discuss any specific money amounts.
Missouri, who was also the head of the so-called France Bureau at the Libyan foreign ministry, said that later, he saw a document sent from a Libyan team negotiating the terms of support with the French.
Asked who would know if and what sum of money was delivered to Sarkozy, Missouri said it would be Gadhafi’s chief “accountant,” Salem al-Qomodi, who is currently under house arrest in Libya.
Missouri said that also present at the 2005 meeting were Gadhafi’s former chief-of-staff Bashir Saleh and French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine — who later told the online investigative site Mediapart that he delivered suitcases from Libya containing 5 million euros ($6.2 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Gueant.
Last month, Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges that he took millions of illegal campaign financing from Gadhafi. He vigorously denied the accusations on French television. An investigation has been underway since 2013 into the case.
Missouri also said that the last correspondence between Gadhafi and Sarkozy took place a couple of months before the Libyan leader’s death at the hands of rebels. Gadhafi offered to step down but remain in Libya, Missouri said.
There was no answer from Sarkozy, Missouri said.
As France’s president from 2007 to 2012, Sarkozy put France in the forefront of the NATO-led airstrikes against Gadhafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple Gadhafi’s regime in 2011.
After Gadhafi’s fall, Libya was plunged into chaos and rebel groups became a myriad of militias, loosely allied with competing governments based in the country’s western and eastern halves.
Sarkozy wasn’t the only international figure Gadhafi funneled money to, Missouri said, adding that he had advised Gadhafi to reveal the amounts given to each and every politician, for the sake of transparency, “but he didn’t listen.”
Missouri declined to identify other politicians who received Libyan money.
What sparked his fears, Missouri said, were reports in local Libyan media about authorities’ intentions to arrest him upon his return for speaking publicly about Sarkozy’s corruption case.
Last month, one of Gadhafi’s cousins, Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam who lives in Cairo, told the AP that those know about the corruption case against Sarkozy were either arrested, killed, or escaped assassination attempts.
“The Libyan authorities will be held responsible for any assault or arrest” on me, Missouri said. Any assault would “amount to an impediment to justice.”