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Updated: October 31, 2009 00:47 IST

French week of scandals

Vaiju Naravane
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The case against Mr. Chirac pertains to 35 fictitious jobs created on the City Hall payroll with the money being used to pay persons close to him.
AP The case against Mr. Chirac pertains to 35 fictitious jobs created on the City Hall payroll with the money being used to pay persons close to him.

This has been a week marked by politico-financial scandals in France, the latest being a court order requiring the former French President, Jacques Chirac, to stand trial on corruption charges that date back to the time when he was Mayor of Paris.

If he comes to trial, Mr. Chirac will be the first former French head of state to be prosecuted for corruption. The case against him pertains to 35 fictitious jobs created on the City Hall payroll with the money being used to pay persons close to him. The order by the magistrate, Xaviere Simeoni, could be challenged by public prosecutors who have already requested that the cases against the conservative former President be dropped. If the prosecutors appeal Friday’s order, it could take months for judges to determine whether he should face trial. Mr. Chirac was the Paris Mayor from 1977 to 1995, when he was elected President and remained in office until 2007. His position as President gave him constitutional immunity from prosecution, which was automatically lifted when he left office. Preliminary embezzlement charges were filed soon after he stepped down.

This week has also seen the conviction of the former Interior Minister, Charles Pasqua, convicted to a prison sentence in an illegal arms deal called Angolagate in which hefty commissions were paid to middlemen for the sale of arms to Angola in breach of an international embargo in the 1990s. Jean Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late President Francois Mitterrand, who had been put in charge of African affairs by his father, also received a hefty fine and a suspended sentence. Mr. Pasqua has appealed against his conviction stating everyone in the government knew of the secret deals.

In yet another case, called the Clearstream affair, the former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, is in court defending himself against separate charges of planning a smear campaign in 2003 and 2004 against Nicolas Sarkozy, a political rival, who has since been elected President of France.

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