/ 21 November 2007

France’s Chirac targeted in corruption probe

A French judge has placed former president Jacques Chirac under formal investigation for embezzlement of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris, Chirac’s lawyer Jean Veil said on Wednesday.

Chirac, who lost his immunity from prosecution after stepping down as president in May, has consistently denied any wrongdoing while he was mayor between 1977 and 1995.

”Formal investigation” means a suspect could eventually be ordered to stand trial, but the judge investigating the case could also decide there is not enough evidence to prosecute.

Chirac (74) is the first former president of modern-day France to be placed under investigation by magistrates.

The case, one of a number hanging over Chirac, revolves around 40 jobs allegedly handed out to centre-right sympathisers by Paris city hall. The former president was questioned over a separate case of alleged fake jobs in July.

His four chiefs of staff from the period 1983 to 1995 have already been placed under official investigation in the case.

In a newspaper column published on Wednesday, the former president wrote that he had hired ”men and women of quality” during his tenure as mayor to advise him and to help him revitalise Paris.

”I wanted or authorised these recruitments because they were both legitimate and necessary,” he wrote in Le Monde daily. — Reuters