A controversial fixer for arms deals linked to an alleged corruption scandal that engulfed Nicolas Sarkozy has been refused entry to Britain.
Ziad Takieddine, a Lebanese businessman who recently confessed to paying kick-backs to an aide of the former French President, was stopped at St Pancras station in central London on Tuesday afternoon.
The 63-year-old, who has also made extraordinary claims that the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi paid up to £40m towards Mr Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential election bid, was reportedly questioned by officers from the British Transport Police before being returned to France on the Eurostar.
French media reported the arms dealer, who was banned from leaving France pending the conclusion of several investigations into his affairs, was trying to visit his children in London for New Year’s Eve.
Mr Takieddine went through an acrimonious divorce from his British-born ex-wife, Nicola Johnson, 52, three years ago. One of their disputed assets was Warwick House, in Holland Park, west London, estimated to be worth more than £17m.
A British Transport Police spokesperson said the removal of Mr Takieddine occurred after an unspecified “allegation of fraud” was reported on Tuesday afternoon.
His fleeting appearance at St Pancras station may not be the first time Mr Takieddine has attempted to leave France in recent weeks. According to French media, he also tried to take a flight to Lebanon just before Christmas.
In June, Mr Takieddine told French investigators that he paid kick-backs on arms deals with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that helped fund the failed presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur in 1995. At the time, Mr Sarkozy was employed as Mr Balladur’s spokesman.
Mr Takieddine reportedly claimed one of Mr Sarkozy’s close aides, Thierry Gaubert, collected suitcases filled with banknotes during visits to Geneva in 1994. Mr Gaubert has denied he is directly connected after being placed under investigation in 2011. Mr Sarkozy is not directly implicated and has denied any role.
Mr Takieddine, a middle man in huge arms and petrol contracts between France and several Middle Eastern countries, has been a persistent thorn in the side of Mr Sarkozy.
A British Transport Police spokesperson said: “A 63-year-old man was stopped at St Pancras International station yesterday following an allegation of fraud.
“The man was escorted back to France by French border police via the Eurostar.”