Bribe charge minister quits

22nd January 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 21 (AFP) - French junior minister Pierre Bedier resigned Wednesday, hours after being put under judicial investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a company bidding on public contracts.

PARIS, Jan 21 (AFP) - French junior minister Pierre Bedier resigned Wednesday, hours after being put under judicial investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a company bidding on public contracts.

Bedier, the state secretary for justice ministry property assets, is suspected of receiving cash payments from a cleaning company while he was mayor of the Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie between 1995 and 2002, in return for his support of the company's bids.

Bedier's resignation comes two months ahead of French regional elections which are seen as a critical first test for conservative Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government, after less than two years in power.

Raffarin's office said late Wednesday he had accepted Bedier's resignation, adding in a statement that the official had quit in order "to defend himself like any citizen and in light of the particular responsibilities he has within the government" as a state secretary.

During the judicial probe, launched last May, the owner of Ainett cleaning company, Michel Delfau, and his family described the system of payments made to Bedier and two other elected officials.

Delfau's accountant said "200,000 or 300,000 francs" (equivalent to between EUR 30,500 and EUR 45,700) were distributed each year to Bedier, Jacques Masdeu-Arus and Gilles Forray - all current members of President Jacques Chirac's UMP governing party.

Bedier is formally being investigated for "passive corruption, abetting in the abuse of public assets".

Government sources said he could be replaced as state secretary by parliamentarian Yves Jego or UMP official Nicole Guedj.

Masdeu-Arus, deputy mayor of the Paris suburb of Poissy, was placed under judicial investigation last week. Forray, his second-in-command, is also under investigation but has refused to cooperate with judicial authorities and tried unsuccessfully on January 13 to commit suicide.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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