Jacques Chirac to stand trial for embezzlement
Jacques Chirac, the former French president, will stand trial for embezzlement in a Paris court early next year, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The 77-year-old, whose presidency of France ran from 1995 until 2007, could face a ten-year prison sentence and €150,000 fine if found guilty. He will be the first modern French leader to face a corruption trial.
Mr Chirac faces charges of abuse of public funds while he was mayor of Paris. It is alleged that he paid 21 allies for doing non-existent jobs as part of his drive for power in the 1990s. Last month, the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, agreed to drop the town hall's civil lawsuit against Mr Chirac in exchange for €2.2m – the amount of taxpayer's money it claimed was misused.
The ruling conservative UMP party agreed to foot two thirds of the bill while Mr Chirac will have to come up with the remaining €550,000 he allegedly misused between 1992 and 1995. Those were the last three years of his 18-year term as Paris mayor.
Despite the deal, the criminal lawsuit still stands, confirmed Jean Veil, Mr Chirac's lawyer, yesterday.
"Jacques Chirac will go before his judges; he has said so and nothing will change the situation," he told Europe 1 radio.
"We have resolved the civil problems [and] there remains the trial which will take place in November, or more likely in January or February 2011." The deal between the town hall and the UMP did not amount to admission of guilt, he added.
Mr Chirac lost his presidential immunity from prosecution in 2007, and judges charged him earlier this year after a three-year investigation.
The former head of state also faces separate charges that he paid another seven people for work unrelated to Paris's city council.
Prosecutors are to decide on October 1 if these charges can also be heard at the forthcoming Paris trial.
Mr Chirac, who denies involvement in any "ghost jobs" system, has become a much-loved presidential retiree despite persistent corruption allegations. His recent memoirs were a hit and his political allies are increasingly powerful. François Baroin, a Chirac loyalist and current budget minister could even become the next prime minister.