Chirac could face legal questioning

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - France's former prime minister Alain Juppe warned Sunday that ex-president Jacques Chirac was just an ordinary citizen again and could face questions over a long-standing case involving party funds.

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - France's former prime minister Alain Juppe warned Sunday that ex-president Jacques Chirac was just an ordinary citizen again and could face questions over a long-standing case involving party funds.

Asked on television about the possibility of Chirac being interviewed by examining magistrates, Juppe said: "He had a (special) status as president of the republic, but when he is no longer president, he is a citizen like everybody else.

"That is the law."

Juppe, back in office as government number two under Chirac's successor Nicolas Sarkozy, is an old ally of Chirac, whose immediate concern may be the prospect of questioning over an alleged illegal party-funding scheme dating back to his time as Paris mayor more than a decade ago.

Juppe himself had to quit politics temporarily after being convicted in the party finance scandal.

In 2004 he was convicted of using his earlier position at Paris City Hall to raise illegal funds for Chirac's party, the Rally for the Republic (RPR). On appeal his sentence was reduced to a 14-month suspended jail term and a year's ineligibility from public office.

Resigning his elected positions as parliamentary deputy and mayor of Bordeaux, he handed over leadership of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), successor party to the RPR, to  Sarkozy.

Once seen as Chirac's heir at the head of the French right, Juppe was then eclipsed by Sarkozy who succeeded Chirac in a presidential election this month.

Juppe was interviewed by police last Tuesday as a witness in connection with the long-standing party funds case, which could yet reach Chirac after his presidential immunity expires June 16.

Speaking of this latest interview with the police, Juppe said: "Of course I'm a citizen subject to the law. They asked me for an interview as a witness...and when one is interviewed as a witness that means there are no charges against one."

Juppe, prime minister under Chirac between 1995 and 1997, now returns as government number two at the helm of a new super-ministry for environment, sustainable development and energy.

Juppe returned to politics last year and was re-elected mayor of Bordeaux.

A justice official told AFP in March that it was "most probable" that Chirac would be questioned as a witness in the probe into a kickback scheme in which workers for Chirac's RPR had salaries paid for by Paris city hall or companies that won contracts there.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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