Ex-PM Cresson may escape fraud charge

23rd January 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Edith Cresson is to appear before the European Commission to give her version of a fraud scandal which brought down the previous commission, EU sources said Thursday.

BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Edith Cresson is to appear before the European Commission to give her version of a fraud scandal which brought down the previous commission, EU sources said Thursday.

The appearance, expected in coming weeks after Cresson asked to be able to explain herself, comes as Belgian prosecutors prepare to announce if they will pursue charges against her, with reports suggesting they will drop the case.

Cresson, who was a member of the Brussels commission forced to resign en masse in 1999 after the scandal, "asked to be heard by the commission to give her side of events," said commission spokesman Michael Mann.

"We're currently in the process of finding a date when Mrs. Cresson could come to Brussels," he added, saying that it would likely be in "weeks rather than months."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 for a fictitious job.

The 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.

According to the French daily Le Monde, Belgian prosecutors are preparing to announce they are dropping the case. A spokeswoman declined to confirm the report, which echoed a similar account by a Belgian daily in November.

"The investigation has been completed and the prosecution is in the process of drawing up the final case notes with a view to finalizing the procedure," spokeswoman Estelle Arpigny told AFP.


© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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