Sarkozy agreed to bury Chirac corruption files

11th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - France's right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to protect President Jacques Chirac from investigation on corruption charges in exchange for his endorsement, a French weekly reported Wednesday.

PARIS, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - France's right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to protect President Jacques Chirac from investigation on corruption charges in exchange for his endorsement, a French weekly reported Wednesday.

Chirac's office dismissed the report, published in the Canard Enchaine, a satirical investigative weekly, as "absolutely baseless". No comment was available from Sarkozy's camp.

Quoting a "Chirac loyalist" from Sarkozy's governing UMP party, the weekly reported that "in exchange for Chirac's support for his candidacy, Sarkozy made a commitment, if he wins, to avoid any judicial backlash for Chirac."

Rather than a specific amnesty for corruption affairs, the weekly said Sarkozy would introduce an article, part of a new anti-crime bill, that would set a 10-year limit on the time a judge has to close a case.

"These allegations, which are absolutely baseless, do not warrant a response," an official at the French presidency told AFP.

Chirac's name has been linked to several illegal party-funding scandals during his tenure as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, but as president he was immune from questioning by magistrates. The immunity ends a month after he steps down on May 16.

Three cases, all dating back more than 10 years, could potentially come back to haunt him, including a kickback scheme in which workers for Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR) party had salaries paid for by Paris city hall.

The so-called "fake jobs" scandal led in 2003 to a series of prosecutions of senior RPR figures, including Chirac's close ally Alain Juppe who received a suspended jail term and a year-long ban on public office.

Last month justice officials said Chirac, 74, would be questioned after he leaves office in May by a judge looking into the case, although no date had been set.

Chirac gave his official endorsement to Sarkozy's bid for the presidency on March 21, after leaving it until the last moment to rule out running for a third term.

Once close allies, the two men's relationship have soured since Sarkozy backed a rival candidate in the 1995 presidential election. Sarkozy went on to wrest control the UMP away from Chirac, becoming its president in 2004.

Sarkozy is currently the favourite to win the presidential election, taking place in two rounds on April 22 and May 6.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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