Villepin 'guilty by abstention': prosecutor

24th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former French president Dominique de Villepin, accused of smearing his rival Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 elections, is guilty of "complicity by abstention" for failing to stop the man making the false claims, a court heard Monday.

Villepin was cleared of all charges relating to the affair, dubbed Clearstream, in a previous trial but prosecutors have decided to appeal.

They asked Monday for a 15-month suspended jail term for the ex-president.

His two co-accused -- former deputy boss of aerospace giant EADS Jean-Louis Gergorin and former EADS employee and mathematician Imad Lahoud -- were jailed for 15 and 18 months respectively and fined 40,000 euros (60,000 dollars) in the case dating back to 2004.

It centres on a list -- later proved to be false -- of account holders at Clearstream bank in Luxembourg who had allegedly received kickbacks from the sale of French frigates to Taiwan.

One name on the bogus list was that of Sarkozy, then finance and interior minister under president Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy served alongside Villepin under Chirac, but the pair fell out over who should succeed him.

Appeal court prosecutor Jean-Louis Perol said Monday there was a "convergence of interests" between Villepin and Gergorin, the "instigator" of the false accusations.

While Villepin was looking to keep Sarkozy out of the presidency race, Gergorin was looking to do the same to his EADS rivals, the court heard.

© 2011 AFP

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