France's Chirac pays half million euros to settle graft case

25th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

France's former president Jacques Chirac has agreed to pay Paris city hall 550,000 euros to drop its graft case against him, officials said Wednesday, but his corruption trial will go ahead.

City hall confirmed a press report that it would accept the sum from Chirac and a further 1.65 million euros (2.1 million dollars) from his right-wing UMP party to cover costs in the case in return for dropping its civil suit.

The settlement has yet to be formally approved by the city council.

It boosts Chirac's chances of escaping conviction because state prosecutors, who will continue the case if and when the city hall pulls out, are widely expected to call for the former president to be acquitted.

Chirac, 77, is one of France's most popular political figures despite being accused of using the city payroll to pay salaries to aides who were actually working for his party when he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.

As president from 1995 to 2007, Chirac was immune from prosecution, but he is now due to go on trial by early next year -- possibly as early as November this year, depending on judicial procedures.

"From the moment we sign this agreement which indemnifies us for the harm suffered, we have no longer any reason to be a civil plaintiff," an official at the mayor's office told AFP on Wednesday.

The city hall insisted there was no negotiation with the UMP over the sum, which covers salaries, interest and lawyers' fees linked to the case, despite a report in the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine of "secret negotiations."

Former prime minister Alain Juppe was convicted in 2004 for corruption while he was Chirac's financial director at the city hall.

© 2010 AFP

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