Chirac vows to fight for 'truth' and 'honour'

23rd November 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 November 2007, PARIS - Former French president Jacques Chirac vowed to fight for the "truth" and his "honour" Thursday, a day after being placed under formal investigation over the improper use of city funds when he was mayor of Paris.

22 November 2007

PARIS - Former French president Jacques Chirac vowed to fight for the "truth" and his "honour" Thursday, a day after being placed under formal investigation over the improper use of city funds when he was mayor of Paris.

"I am going to fight at the same time for the truth and my honour," Chirac said in comments aired on the TF1 television channel.

"I will not accept that anyone says whatever they want about this affair ... that one tramples on the principle of innocence" until proven guilty, he said.

Chirac was placed under formal investigation Wednesday as part of the probe. The move marked the first time a former French head of state has been put under judicial investigation, which is a first step towards possible criminal charges.

The case concerns allegations that Paris funds were used to give front jobs at City Hall to individuals from Chirac's Rally for the Republic Party (RPR). Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, when he became president.

Chirac waving the Elysee goodbye

It was the second time he was questioned by a judge since losing his presidential immunity. In July he was interviewed at his own offices by a judge conducting another corruption probe.

In an article in Le Monde newspaper Wednesday, Chirac denied that he had recruited "officials" at City Hall for political purposes.

"Never were funds belonging to the City of Paris used for any other aim than on behalf of Parisian men and women. Never was there personal enrichment. Never was there a 'system'," he said.

On Thursday, he insisted again that "there has never been any personal enrichment and nobody can say otherwise, things are very clear."

"No public funds were diverted as these employees were needed to ensure the smooth running of the city," he added.

Allies rushed to Chirac's defence, with former minister Pierre Mazeaud decrying the long passage of time since the alleged events. "It is all a bit late. I think it is time to draw a line under all of that," he said.

But political opponents questioned whether Chirac can now retain his position on the Constitutional Council, the 11-member body which is France's highest constitutional authority.

Altogether four separate Paris corruption cases are open that could draw in the former president.

The questioning in July concerned a similar affair in which RPR officials were said to have had salaries paid by companies that won contracts at City Hall.

Writing in Le Monde at the time, Chirac conceded that all political parties turned a blind eye to financing irregularities in the 1980s and early 1990s. But he said this needed to be seen in the context of the time.

As there had been no law setting out rules for party funding, it had become the custom accepted by the left and the right to raise money from "private firms and even public budgets", he said.

After leaving office, Chirac said he would accept questioning on allegations dating from before his time as president -- but not from during his 12-year mandate.

AFP

Subject: French news

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