Chirac refuses to testify over dirty tricks scandal

23rd June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 23, 2007 (AFP) - Former French president Jacques Chirac has refused to testify over a political dirty tricks scandal, but could face questioning over a party financing affair before he took office.

PARIS, June 23, 2007 (AFP) - Former French president Jacques Chirac has refused to testify over a political dirty tricks scandal, but could face questioning over a party financing affair before he took office.

Chirac announced late Friday that he would not answer questions from investigators looking into an alleged plot, known as the Clearstream Scandal, to discredit Nicolas Sarkozy before Sarkozy took over as president.

Under the constitution "the president of the republic is not responsible for acts committed in this capacity" and a former head of state could not be made to testify on things that were "done or known during his mandate and in carrying out his functions," his office said in a statement.

Chirac was replaced by Sarkozy on May 16. Chirac was believed to have favoured a rival candidate, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, to become the ruling party's candidate for the presidency.

Clearstream centred on faked bank documents bearing the names of prominent figures -- including Sarkozy -- who were falsely alleged to have received illegal commissions from the sale of French warships to Taiwan.

Sarkozy said he was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign to block his eventually successful presidential bid.

Chirac's office said he had written to investigating magistrates Jean-Marie d'Huy and Henri Pons to inform them that he would not answer their questions.

Europe 1 radio reported that the two investigators had hoped to interview Chirac over Clearstream in July.

According to Le Canard Enchaine, a satirical weekly, the judges want to ask Chirac about notes made by senior intelligence officer Philippe Rondot which could indicate that a 2004 investigation into the affair was carried out under presidential orders.

Chirac's statement "categorically denied" that he asked anyone to carry out an investigation into the figures named.

Chirac, 74, was president for 12 years. His presidential immunity ran out at midnight on June 16, a month after the end of his mandate.

Chirac's office said he has agreed to answer questions about cases dating from before he became president in 1995.

Chirac's statement said he had asked his lawyer, Jean Veil, "to make contact with the magistrates in charge of these files to inform them that he is available to answer their questions."

Le Parisien newspaper said the ex-president had been "discretely" summoned by an investigating magistrate looking into the use of invented posts at the Paris city hall, when Chirac was mayor of the capital and head of the ruling Gaullist party. The money from the jobs was used to finance the party.

The newspaper said that the time and place of the questioning by investigating judge Alain Philibeaux had been kept secret because of the sensitivity. It said Chirac would be interviewed as an "assisted witness" rather than a suspect.

Investigators have a 1993 note signed by Chirac in which he asks for payment for a city employee for work done for a ruling party advisor on agricultural affairs.

Another former prime minister, Alain Juppe, who was a deputy mayor, was sentenced to a suspended jail term in 2004 for his role in the financing scandal. Juppe was forced to stand down as a top minister in the Sarkozy government last week after failing to win back a parliamentary seat.


Copright AFP

Subject: French news

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