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Chirac To Face Charges When He Steps Down

From the UK’s Telegraph:

Chirac to face corruption charges

By Henry Samuel in Paris

When Jacques Chirac hands in the keys to the Elysée palace on May 16, he will also lose his presidential immunity and runs the risk of prosecution in at least four corruption cases.

Mr Chirac, 74, has been linked to a string of party funding and other scandals known as “les affaires,” which date back to his time as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. Scores of former associates have been convicted for their involvement.

A constitutional reform adopted last month confirmed that French presidents are immune from questioning or prosecution while in office, but can face charges the moment they stand down.

The first threat to an untroubled Chirac retirement could come from two cases involving the illegal use of Paris city funds to pay staff and allies of his Gaullist Rally for the Republic, or RPR, party, a precursor to the ruling Union for a Popular Movement.

Mr Chirac’s former right hand man, the former prime minister Alain Juppé, was convicted in January 2004 for his role in that scheme, receiving a suspended jail sentence and a year-long ban on holding public office. He is now mayor of Bordeaux.

Judges in a Nanterre court have in their possession a letter signed by Mr Chirac asking for the promotion of a municipal worker in fact working for his RPR party.

A third case relates to a Paris printing firm which is suspected of rigging public tender contracts and of funding the RPR via the mayor’s office – although the events may be too distant.

Mr Chirac’s former lieutenant at City Hall, Michel Roussin, was convicted in 2005 along with 42 politicians, party officials and businessmen over a similar system that rigged public works contracts to fund the RPR.

The last case focuses on allegations that the outgoing president and his wife Bernadette accepted free air tickets from the charter airline Euralair – today called Air Horizons – prior to the 1995 presidential election.

Several other affairs implicating Mr Chirac have been dropped, including a probe into entertainment bills of more than two million euros in cash spent by the Chiracs while at City Hall, known as the “frais de bouche” scandal.

With the final countdown ticking, Mr Chirac has been busy nominating allies to key posts in a bid to bury possible allegations. Late last year he named his former advisor at the Elysée, Laurent Le Mesle, to the post of Paris state prosecutor – the man with the power to rekindle such investigations.

Another judge, Philippe Courroye, believed to be close to Mr Chirac is to be named state prosecutor in Nanterre, against the wishes of the country’s highest magistrates body.

Last week, Mr Chirac made his most loyal servant, Jean-Louis Debré, president of the constitutional council, the country’s highest constitutional court.

But just in case all else fails, Mr Chirac is also said to be earnestly seeking a post as an environmental ambassador to the UN, which would extend his immunity, perhaps for life.

The article doesn’t even touch on Chirac’s most outlandish and internationally important scandal — his kickbacks from the UN’s Oil For Palaces Food program.

But the French will probably never bring that up. After all, that was just about making money.

Which is all they ever care about.

But just in case all else fails, Mr Chirac is also said to be earnestly seeking a post as an environmental ambassador to the UN, which would extend his immunity, perhaps for life.

No surprise there. The UN has always been the sanctuary of scoundrels.

And after all, they were his partners in crime.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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