French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he wants to clean up the way France sells its weapons abroad. A trial opening in Paris on Monday about alleged arms trafficking to Angola shows why, by exposing corrupt dealings long associated with the arms trade.
It's a high-profile case — but not an isolated one.
In May, a court in Bourges in central France convicted the son of former French Defense Minister Yvon Bourges and a Belgian national of trafficking Iranian arms to Qatar and African countries between 1993 and 2000.
Both cases involved arms that weren't made in France but were sold through deals on French territory.
Deals involving French-made defense equipment have come under question, too.
On Wednesday, after seven years of investigation, a French judge dismissed a corruption case that probed alleged kickbacks in the sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991. Since it involved classified military secrets, the investigators said they couldn't get the information they needed to make the case.
Sarkozy has promised new transparency to France's customers, notably during a visit this year to Saudi Arabia — one of the world's most coveted arms markets. A quasi-governmental agency formed in the 1970s to market French weapons to the Saudi kingdom has been renamed and put under new management.
The Angola case shows that cleaning up the arms trade carries diplomatic risks, too.
France's diplomatic and commercial ties with Angola suffered badly as the trafficking investigation spread. Angola's president called it a witch hunt, and has shifted allegiances to China.
Sarkozy sought to "turn the page" on those tensions with a visit to Luanda in May. The government formally welcomed him — but some Angolan media saw the trip as an attempt to curry favor for French oil giant Total, already operating one of the world's biggest gas fields off Angola's Atlantic Coast, but facing growing competition from China.