Ex-French PM Cresson faces EU fraud case

5th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (AFP) - Belgian prosecutors have decided to drop most charges against former French prime minister Edith Cresson, although she will still face court over one fraud indictment, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (AFP) - Belgian prosecutors have decided to drop most charges against former French prime minister Edith Cresson, although she will still face court over one fraud indictment, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The charges stem from a corruption scandal which sparked the collapse in 1999 of the European Commission, the EU executive of which Cresson was a member.

Cresson, who was French prime minister from 1991 to 1992, was indicted last March on charges of cronyism during her time as a member of the Brussels-based EU executive in the late 1990s.

She was specifically accused of organising the hiring by her department of Rene Berthelot, a personal friend and retired dentist, from 1996-1997, who was allegedly paid some EUR 150,000 (USD 188,000) for a fictitious job.

According to a spokeswoman, the only indictment on which prosecutors are pursuing Cresson relates to a number of allegedly counterfeit orders mandating missions or tasks to be carried out on the commission's behalf.

The Belgian daily Le Soir reported that the allegedly false documents involve expenditure of about EUR 7,000 to Berthelot.

"The prosecution is asking that Mme. Cresson and a civil servant be sent to court for 13 mission orders" which are suspected of being counterfeit, said Estelle Arpigny, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.

Prosecutors are set to propose that all other charges be dropped, she said, adding that a decision in the case is likely "in the coming weeks or the coming months".

The 1999 Brussels fraud scandal sparked the collapse of the commission headed by Jacques Santer, whose successor Romano Prodi has battled to clean up the EU executive's tarnished reputation.

As well as the alleged fraud involving Berthelot, Cresson was also alleged to have given benefits to a French company in work carried out in connection with an EU training programme of which she was in charge.

© AFP

Subject: France news

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