PARIS (Reuters/AFP) - French magistrates investigating an attack in Pakistan blamed on militants that killed 11 French nationals in 2002 are looking into allegations it was linked to corrupt deals, lawyers for the victims families claimed. A coach carrying French naval engineers and technicians was bombed as it left a hotel in Karachi in May 2002. The attack killed 14 people in total. Pakistani authorities at first blamed militants and two men were sentenced to death for taking part in the attacks, but their convictions were overturned on appeal in 2003. French investigating magistrates Marc Trevidic and Yves Jannier informed the families of the victims on Thursday that they no longer believed the scenario of a militant attack was credible, lawyers for the families told reporters. The magistrates told the victims families they were now investigating allegations the attack was orchestrated by unnamed Pakistani officials angry with France over the non-payment of bribes tied to a defence deal. Investigators had been looking into an Al-Qaeda link to the attack. The investigating magistrates told us that they believed this scenario was extremely credible, one of the relatives lawyers, Olivier Morice, told reporters. But Morice told AFP: The Al-Qaeda track has been totally abandoned. The motive for the attack appears linked to the non-payment of commissions. Morice said the payments were stopped when Jacques Chirac became French president in 1995 because he wanted to stop part of the money financing the campaign of then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, who was his political rival on the French right at the time. According to these allegations, some kickbacks ended up in the campaign funds of then Balladur in the 1995 presidential election, a judicial source familiar with the matter told Reuters. President Nicolas Sarkozy was Balladurs campaign manager in the ballot and was also budget minister when the lucrative sales contract for the French Agosta submarines was signed. He rejected on Friday the magistrates suspicions. Listen, this is ridiculous, Sarkozy told reporters at a news conference after an EU summit in Brussels. This is grotesque ... We have to respect the grief of the families. Who would ever believe such a tale? he added. Balladur also denied any knowledge of wrongdoing. Asked about the allegation by French state television, Balladur said: As far as I am aware, everything was completely above board. I have nothing more to say. If anyone has any proof, let them speak up. Lawyer Morice said the investigating magistrates had obtained a top-secret internal memo in October 2008 from the state-owned shipbuilder which contained the allegations. The memo, copies of which were shown on French media on Friday, says French and Pakistani officials connived to take bribes as part of the sale of French Agosta submarines to Pakistan in the mid-1990s. It says France stopped paying the bribes after the 1995 election, won by Chirac, and that Pakistani officials kept asking for them for several years. The allegation is that they eventually lost patience and organised in retaliation the attack on the bus full of French engineers, who were working on the Agosta submarine project. Trevidic and Jannier cannot speak publicly about their investigation because the rules of their position forbid it. Magali Drouet, a daughter of one of the men killed, quoted one of the anti-terrorist judges, Marc Trevidic, as telling the families that this theory was 'cruelly logical. She added that according to this scenario, the attack was carried out because the special payments were not made by France to Asif Ali Zardari, who is now Pakistans President but was a minister at the time. High-ranking politicians would likely be called in to testify, said Morice. Details of the payments emerged in 2008 as part of an investigation into French arms sales. Police seized documents from the French firm, now known as DCNS, which discussed the companies used to pay fees in connection with arms sales. One unsigned document spoke of Pakistan intelligence services using militants. It claimed that the Karachi attack was carried out with complicity within the (Pakistani) Army and the office supporting guerrillas within Pakistani intelligence. The document, which has been added to the case file, said those who employed the religious group had financial aims. It involved obtaining the payment of unpaid commissions linked to the sale of French submarines to Pakistan in 1994, it said. A French investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 'new elements had been found in the inquiry, but declined to give details. Two alleged members of Al-Qaeda-linked group Harkatul Mujahideen al-Aalmi were found guilty by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan in 2003 over the Karachi attack. But the Sindh High Court last month acquitted the pair, saying in an order that the prosecution has failed to prove the case against the appellants beyond any reasonable doubt.