Prince Karim Agha Khan calls on President
Paris, 10 December 2012(APP); Prince Karim Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, today called on President Asif Ali Zardari here at Hotel Plaza Athenee. He congratulated the President and the Government of Pakistan on organizing, along with UNESCO, a high level event for the promotion of education in Pakistan. The President appreciated the services of Prince Karim Agha Khan across the world particularly for the people of Pakistan in the education sector, poverty eradication, women empowerment and socio-economic development of the poor strata of society. The President wished Prince Karim Agha Khan long life, good health and prosperity. The President also invited him to visit Pakistan at his convenience.
Four years after Nicolas Sarkozy granted the Aga Khan an exemption from all French taxes, the former President has intervened on behalf of the billionaire religious leader in long-running divorce proceedings with his German wife.
The Times learnt of Mr Sarkozy’s assistance to the Karim Aga Khan as the Prince’s office confirmed that the highest French court has just quashed a 2011 divorce ruling and € 60 million settlement for the Begum Inaara Aga Khan.
It emerged last year that Mr Sarkozy, as President, had accorded the Aga Khan the exceptional dispensation. A letter from Mr Sarkozy, leaked to the media, showed that he used a rare “courtesy” power as head of state to grant the favour on the ground that the twice-married Prince had based his philanthropic activities in France.
The new decision by the Paris Cour de Cassation, based on a legal point, sends France’s most expensive divorce for retrial at a Paris appeal court in about a year’s time.
The original appeal ruling, in Amiens, had attributed all responsibility for the marital breakdown to the Aga Khan, and raised a settlement of €12 million to €60 million. The Aga Khan, 76, and his estranged wife, Gabriele Thyssen, 49, have been waging an eight-year legal battle that began in Switzerland and passed through British courts before ending in France. The couple have a 13-year-old son, Aly.
The Amiens court failed to establish the Prince’s wealth but it heard estimates of €5 billion to € 10billion. Most of this comes from voluntary donations from people among the 15 million members of the Islamic Ismaili community, of which he is the head. Legal fees in the case have run into millions, qualifying it as one of history’s most expensive divorce cases.
Mr Sarkozy, who is a lawyer by profession, intervened behind the scenes last autumn. He began negotiating directly on the Prince’s behalf with his estranged wife’s lawyers in October with the aim of obtaining a settlement, according to sources close to the case. No agreement was reached.
Lawyers for both sides declined to confirm or deny the former President’s action but The Times has seen legal e-mails referring to his direct role from October to December. The former President, who lost the election to François Hollande in May, has been “pulling the strings in the background” for the Aga Khan, whose base is at the Aiglemont estate near Chantilly, the horse-racing capital of France just north of Paris, the sources say.
A spokeswoman for Mr Sarkozy declined any comment on his possible role in the divorce. Bernard Grelon, the Aga Khan’s lawyer, was not available for comment yesterday.
The Aga Khan’s spokesman said that there would be no comment beyond confirmation that the Paris court had “struck down all provisions of the Amiens court of appeal”.
Elodie Mulon and other lawyers for the Begum declined to go beyond a statement confirming that the divorce ruling had been quashed “in a purely technical decision”.
The link between Mr Sarkozy and the Aga Khan, who holds British citizenship, is Eric Woerth, the Mayor and MP of Chantilly, who conducted the Aga Khan’s civil wedding ceremony at Aiglemont in 1998. Mr Woerth resigned as Mr Sarkozy’s Budget Minister after he came under criminal investigation in 2010 over allegations that Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress, had made illegal donations to Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. The inquiry is continuing.
Mr Sarkozy was reported this week to be involved in the possible creation of a London-based private equity fund. He has in the past repeatedly declared his interest in making serious money and since he left office he has been earning substantial sums with lectures, speeches and other enterprises.
A decade ago, the Aga Khan worked with Mr Woerth, spending millions to renovate the Chantilly domaine. Mr Woerth was one of the witnesses in his divorce proceedings.
The Aga Khan commands his world business empire from Aiglemont. The operations earn about €1 billion a year, according to one informed source.
The Aiglemont domaine is also a command centre for the Swiss-based global Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which carries out humanitarian operations around the world.
Mr Sarkozy’s 2008 letter referred to the establishment of AKDN in France and concluded: “I am pleased to inform you of my decision to grant you the benefit of high international courtesy in its widest sense, notably with the exoneration of direct taxes, stamp duty and wealth tax.”
The Begum, who recently moved from Ascot, Berkshire, to Switzerland, would stand to inherit as his spouse if the Aga Khan should die before the dissolution of their marriage. But in 2009 under the French procedure of “divorce for fault”, the Amiens court ruled that his adultery was to blame and rejected his counter-allegation that she had failed to attend to her religious duties as his spouse.
She had, among other matters, produced evidence of an affair with an airline stewardess. The Aga Khan instigated an appeal to the Cassation court, not over the financial settlement but over the ruling that he bore all responsibility for the marital breakdown.
The couple were married in 1998 after the Harvard-educated Prince was divorced from his first wife, Sally Croker-Poole, a British former fashion model. His second wife, born in Frankfurt, was previously married to Prince Karl-Emich zu Leiningen.
The Aga Khan’s decision to challenge the divorce decision surprised friends, who had been expecting him to marry Beatrice von der Schulenburg, 44, the divorced wife of a City recruitment company head. The pair have had a long relationship and remain together pending an outcome to the divorce proceedings, said an informed source.
Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:03 pm Post subject: political impasse in Afghanistan - Wikileaks docs
US embassy cable - 09KABUL3383
THE AGHA KHAN TRIES TO SOLVE ELECTORAL IMPASSE
Wikileaks: View 09KABUL3383 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kabul
Created: 2009-10-21 10:34:00
Tags: KDEM PGOV PREL AF
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHBUL #3383/01 2941034
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211034Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEKJCS/DEPSECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2405
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 2239
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 8042
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3870
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 7413
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003383
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019
TAGS: KDEM, PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: THE AGHA KHAN TRIES TO SOLVE ELECTORAL IMPASSE
Classified By: Ambassador Karl Eikenberry for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary and Comment. The very well-informed Aga Khan
told assembled ambassadors 14 October that he had met
separately with President Karzai and leading opposition
candidate Abdullah Abdullah, and had told them that the
political process in Afghanistan has failed. He urged the
two candidates to establish a common program for Afghanistan
and then create a government designed to implement it.
Attending ambassadors applauded his engagement and suggested
the Ismaili leader follow up with President Karzai,
emphasizing the need to respect the electoral process.
Ambassador Eikenberry added that discussions with both
candidates have gone forward on a broad range of issues that
should contribute to a common program that the Aga Khan might
use for specifics in his follow up discussions. With his
access and the high level of assistance the Aga Khan
Development Network (AKDN) affords to Afghanistan, the Aga
Khan is a serious voice that Afghans, including Hamid Karzai,
respect and listen to. End Summary and Comment.
2. (U) Background: The Agha Khan became Imam of the Shia
Imami Ismaili Muslims in 1957. He is the 49th hereditary Imam
of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of
the Prophet Muhammad though his cousin and son-in-law Ali,
the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet Muhammad's
daughter. The Ismailis live in 25 countries, mainly in West
and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and North
American and Western Europe. The Aga Khan was born on
December 13, 1936, in Geneva. He grew up in Kenya and
attended school in Switzerland. He graduated from Harvard
University in 1959 with a BA Honors Degree in Islamic
history. He is Director of the AKDN, which focuses on
health, education, culture, rural development,
institution-building, and the promotion of economic
development. The AKDN's Afghanistan program includes
large-scale rural development, health, education, and civil
society programs; microfinance; rehabilitation of historic
neighborhoods; the Babur Gardens in Kabul; the Roshan mobile
phone network; and, the renovation of the five-star Serena
hotel in Kabul. End Background.
3. (C) On 14 October the Aga Khan met with Ambassadors of
the United States (Eikenberry and Carney), France, UK, India,
Pakistan, Germany, EU, and the Commander of International
Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). The Aga Khan's
representative, Ali Mawji, organized the event. After
presentations by the assembled guests that generally
emphasized Afghanistan's perilous security and political
conditions, the Aga Khan embarked on an informative tour d'
horizon, including details of his suggestions following
earlier meetings with President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah. The
Aga Khan focused on three main concerns: the role of
Afghanistan's neighbors and opportunities to gain support
from them; regional perceptions of the development future of
Afghanistan; and, his assessment of the current political
4. (C) Underscoring the important role of Afghanistan's
neighbors, the Aga Khan assessed to the diplomats that each
of the presidential candidates could draw on possible support
from their circles of neighboring friends. Regarding his
regional perceptions of the development future of
Afghanistan, he emphasized that its provinces are in
different stages of development, and therefore, will need
varying approaches to development. This is particularly
critical for border provinces that share ethnic groups across
frontiers. He questioned whether Afghanistan's neighbors
share his analysis. A common regional view is necessary in
order to reach consensus on cross-frontier development -- a
concept which has already worked in Badakshan province where
the lesson of cross-frontier ethnicity has proved crucial.
5. (C) Security is another essential precondition because
ethnic groups must feel safe, the Ismaili leader stated. To
succeed, one must assess conditions at the frontiers, paying
particular attention to ethnic group demography in these
border areas, including the viability of working with each
group. In his view, irrespective of the election results, we
must "drive hard" on development wherever we can. He asked
COMISAF to keep an eye on security in the north and the west,
both "areas of promise."
KABUL 00003383 002 OF 002
6. (C) The Aga Khan's third point centered on the political
situation. The Aga Khan explained that he had solicited
Karzai's and Abdullah's views on the future of the country in
the face of a failed political process. He recounted that he
had advised both candidates that, regardless of the election
outcome, they should work together. The Aga Khan had urged
them to devise a common agenda for the next three to five
years, which would require promptly establishing
communications to discuss their program. The key element to
the program would be appointing competent people in the key
7. (C) The Agha Kahn had also asked them to consider
whether, in the event a second round was required, would it
be in Afghanistan's best interest to hold Parliamentary
elections scheduled for next spring? Given the high level of
risk entailed in holding two elections within a ten-month
period, he had urged the two candidates to consider avoiding
this scenario. The Aga Khan believed the candidates are
aware that they should assume some responsibility over this
matter, but he was uncertain whether their role would be
positive or negative.
8. (C) In his presentation, the Agha Kahn mentioned his
awareness that the Afghan Constitution does not allow for a
prime minister; whatever position Abdullah would occupy must
be constitutional and must factor in parliamentary
sensitivities. He concluded to his Afghan interlocutors that
this is a matter the Afghans must resolve, suggesting that
establishing clear goalposts would lend structure to this
tenuous period and reduce the centrifugal tendencies of
Afghanistan's political class. He took on board without
comment the French Ambassador's suggestion that a "Senior
Minister" be named who could perform the role of a PM,
without the title, but that ensuring parliamentary acceptance
would be vital.
9. (C) In response to questions and observations, the Aga
Khan noted that he does not favor changing the Constitution.
Rather, the new government should be allowed to first
function long enough to build momentum. Later there would be
time to discuss the Constitution. In this context, the Aga
Khan reiterated the critical role ethnicity plays, in
particular the cross-frontier realities of the Pashtun
community. Key here is that the ethnic group looks, not at
the frontier, but at themselves and their position vis-a-vis
other ethnic groups. By extension, the implication of this
dynamic is important for dealing with the insurgency;
stabilization in the ethnic communities can assist efforts to
reintegrate elements of the insurgency.
10. (C) Ambassador Eikenberry observed that the electoral
process is on wobbly rails, with the risk of seeing things
blow up, which if it does, would impact the current U.S.
debate. The Aga Khan expressed concern that the two Afghan
men might agree in principle, but not on a set of objectives
and on an agreed program. The Ambassador then noted the
existence of a detailed dialogue with both candidates about a
five-year agenda. He reported that the response from both
Abdullah and Karzai has been positive thus far and could
serve as a basis for a common perspective that the Aga Khan
might use should he follow-up with the two.
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