Sarkozy denies Chirac deal on corruption probe

11th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - French right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday denied a newspaper report that he had agreed to shield President Jacques Chirac from a corruption probe in exchange for his backing.

PARIS, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - French right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday denied a newspaper report that he had agreed to shield President Jacques Chirac from a corruption probe in exchange for his backing.

"It's grotesque, it's hurtful and it's untrue," Sarkozy said after Le Canard Enchaine satirical weekly published the report, quoting sources close to Chirac.

"I deny it in the firmest and fullest terms," said Sarkozy during a campaign swing through the Paris suburb of Villepinte.

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."

Chirac's office also denied the report, with an official saying: "These allegations, which are absolutely baseless, do not warrant a response."

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

That measure would close the book on three corruption cases that date back more than 10 years, when Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, according to Le Canard Enchaine.

Two cases deal with the illegal use of Paris city funds to pay staff and sympathisers of Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR) party, the predecessor of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Former prime minister Alain Juppe was convicted January 2004 for his role in that scheme, receiving a suspended jail sentence and a year-long ban on holding public office.

A third case surrounds a Paris printing firm which is suspected of rigging public tender contracts and of funding the RPR via the mayor's office.

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

Chirac's immunity from questioning by magistrates ends a month after he steps down on May 16.

Chirac gave his official endorsement to Sarkozy's bid for the presidency last month, shortly after announcing that he would be stepping down after 12 years in office and not seek a third term.

Once close allies, the two men fell out after Sarkozy backed a rival candidate in the 1995 presidential election.

Sarkozy, 52, went on to wrest control of the governing UMP 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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