Former Chirac aide loses corruption appeal

27th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 27, 2007 (AFP) - A former aide to French President Jacques Chirac was convicted on appeal of illegal party funding on Tuesday for his role in a major political corruption scandal dating back to the early 1990s.

PARIS, Feb 27, 2007 (AFP) - A former aide to French President Jacques Chirac was convicted on appeal of illegal party funding on Tuesday for his role in a major political corruption scandal dating back to the early 1990s.

Chirac's former cabinet chief during his tenure at Paris City Hall, Michel Roussin, 67, was one of 43 politicians, party officials and businessmen found guilty in October 2005 of helping to rig public works contracts to fund political parties.

The Paris appeal court upheld a four-year prison and an 80,000-euro (100,000-dollar) sentence against Roussin for his role in the scam, which took place during Chirac's term as Paris mayor from 1977 to 1995.

Another key figure, Louise-Yvonne Cassetta, 63, who was accused of handling illegal payments made to Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR) party, lost her appeal, receiving a two-year suspended jail sentence and a 30,000-euro fine.

Roussin denounced the verdict, insisting he had been made a "scapegoat" in the case, while Cassetta accused the judiciary of sparing "the politicians who benefited" from the illegal funding system.

Launched in 1997 following a tip-off, the trial centred on kickbacks worth more than 70 million euros allegedly paid by building firms in order to secure bids to renovate secondary schools around the capital.

Under a secret arrangement that lasted from 1989 to 1997, companies funnelled back two percent of the money paid by the regional Ile-de-France council, according to the prosecution.

All of France's major political parties have been found guilty of illegal funding scams from the 1980s and early 1990s, but since then public financing has been introduced and the succession of scandals has dried up.

In this case, more than half the money went to Chirac's RPR and its ally the Republican Party (PR), and the rest to the Socialists. The RPR and PR have since been assimilated into the Union for a Popular Movement, France's ruling conservative party.

The investigation came close to drawing in Chirac in 2001 when magistrates applied to question him over large sums of cash paid for his personal travel expenses while he was mayor.

Chirac refused, claiming a presidential immunity that was later backed up by a high appeals court. His office said the money -- equivalent to around 300,000 euros -- came from bonuses that he earned as prime minister in the 1980s.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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