Jacques Chirac under formal investigation for corruption
22 November 2007, PARIS - Former French president Jacques Chirac was placed under formal investigation Wednesday as part of a probe into the improper use of city funds when he was mayor of Paris, his lawyer said.
22 November 2007
PARIS - Former French president Jacques Chirac was placed under formal investigation Wednesday as part of a probe into the improper use of city funds when he was mayor of Paris, his lawyer said.
"Mr Chirac has been placed under judicial investigation for misappropriation of public funds, as several other people have already been in this case," said his lawyer Jean Veil.
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 was informed of his predicament during a three-hour interview at the offices of the judge looking into the affair, Xaviere Simeoni.
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.
The former president, who was replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy in May, will be interviewed again in the coming weeks, Veil said.
"It'll be a chance for him to answer all the questions concerning these jobs (allegedly paid for by City Hall). There are not so many of them either, compared to what has been said. We are talking about 20 or so jobs that have been characterised as fake," he said.
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.
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.
Chirac's former aide at Paris City hall Bernard Bled defended him against allegations that he presided over a system of illegal money-raising for the RPR.
"There was no Chirac system, there were no corrupt people sharing out the cake. No doubt we made mistakes, but to caricature us as mafia godfathers, it's ridiculous," Bled 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.
This meant he will not speak to judges looking into the so-called Clearstream scandal, centring on claims that Sarkozy was the victim of a politically-inspired smear campaign in 2004.
Subject: French news