A French judge has ordered 42 people to stand trial over a $790 million scandal involving arms sales to Angola, including Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkady Gaydamak and a son of late French President Francois Mitterrand, judicial officials said on Friday.
The trial will begin at the end of 2007 or in early 2008.
Arms traders Pierre Falcone, a Frenchman, and Israeli national Arkady Gaydamak, are accused of paying a network of political contacts to favour their activities in the African country.
Both men are abroad and will be tried in absentia. The pair have argued that their business dealings were legal.
Falcone is accused of selling Russian arms to the war-torn African country in 1993 and 1994 in an affair dubbed "Angolagate" that cast a shadow over Mitterrand's two-term presidency from 1981 to 1995.
Falcone's contacts, including Mitterrand's son Jean-Christophe, the Socialist president's adviser Jacques Attali and former conservative interior minister Charles Pasqua, are suspected of accepting large sums to facilitate the deals.
The sums range from $2.6 million in Mitterrand's case to $160,000 for Attali.
Mitterrand, will be tried for "complicity in illegal arms trading". Pasqua and Attali will be tried for receiving illegal bonuses from the arms dealers.
The case is one of a series of murky scandals from the Mitterrand era and involves political figures on both the left and right, as well as a colourful associated cast including the thriller writer Paul-Loup Sulitzer.
Falcone and Gaydamak bought tanks, helicopters, artillery pieces, mines, flame-throwers and other weapons in eastern Europe and sold them to Angola through a Paris-based company called Brenco and its Slovak subsidiary.
Prosecutors say the deals required official authorisation, a charge rejected by the defence.
The weapons were used by Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos to fight rebel UNITA forces under Jonas Savimbi.