Juppe 'to admit oversights'in scam sentence appeal bid

12th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - Disgraced former French prime minister Alain Juppe, who was convicted of corruption earlier this year, takes his case to appeal Wednesday in the hope of lifting a ban on holding political office.

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - Disgraced former French prime minister Alain Juppe, who was convicted of corruption earlier this year, takes his case to appeal Wednesday in the hope of lifting a ban on holding political office.  

Juppe, a close ally of President Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in January of "taking illegal benefits" for arranging the payment of party workers with Paris municipal funds between 1988 and 1995.  

He was given an 18-month suspended jail term, which under electoral rules means an automatic disqualification from office for 10 years.  

At the appeal in the town of Versailles outside Paris, Juppe is expected to admit to some responsibility in the affair, hoping the court will respond with a non-custodial sentence that would lift the ban on his political career.  

"He is not going to go down on his knees, but that does not mean he will not recognise a certain number of oversights," a member of his legal team said on condition of anonymity.  

Juppe, 59, who served as prime minister from 1995 to 1997, was widely seen a Chirac's chosen successor to head the centre-right, and until his conviction was president of Chirac's political party the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).  

However he was dogged by funding allegations dating from Chirac's long tenancy as mayor of Paris, when he was shown in court to have connived in  a conspiracy to have staffers at the Rally for the Republic (RPR) - the UMP's precursor - draw salaries from city hall.  

During the January trial Juppe said he only became aware of the illicit salaries in 1993 and then tried to put a stop to it, but one of his former colleagues told the court that "everyone knew" about the system.  

A total of 21 people were convicted in the trial, and five of them will be alongside Juppe for the appeal which is expected last two weeks.  

Even if Juppe succeeds in winning a lighter sentence at the appeal, it is far from certain that he wishes to re-embark on a political career. Since the trial he has stepped down as UMP president and resigned his seat in the national assembly, though he remains mayor of Bordeaux.  

Friends say he was profoundly shocked by the severity of the sentence but has since come to terms with his changed circumstances. "Whatever the appeal court's decision, nothing will be like it was before," he told Sud-Ouest newspaper after his conviction.  

Juppe's resignation from the leadership of the UMP opened the way for the rising star of the centre-right Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who is to take over the party next month. Engaged in a bitter rivalry with Chirac, Sarkozy is expected to use the post to launch a presidential bid in 2007.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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