Thursday 23 November 2017

Jacques Chirac found guilty of misusing public funds

The former French president receives a suspended two-year sentence for crimes related to his tenure as mayor of Paris.

Jacques Chirac found guilty of misusing public funds

Former French President Jacques Chirac was found guilty and received a two-year suspended sentence Thursday for misusing public funds and abusing public confidence while mayor of Paris.

It is the first time a former French head of state has been convicted since Marshal Philippe Petain, leader of France's wartime Vichy regime, was found guilty of collaborating with the Nazis.

The 79-year-old Chirac was not in court to hear the verdict, which came three months after his trial ended. He had submitted a medical report to the court declaring he was suffering from "severe" and "irreversible" neurological problems causing him memory lapses.

But late Thursday, Chirac, who always denied the charges, announced through his lawyers that although he "categorically contested" his conviction, he would not seek an appeal.

The charges date to his tenure as mayor of Paris in the early 1990s. Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007, was accused of using public money for his own political ends in a case dubbed the "fake jobs" affair. The case centered on 21 jobs created at City Hall in which the staff members, on the public payroll, were found to be working full time for Chirac's newly formed Rally for the Republic (RPR) political party in the run-up to his 1995 presidential bid.

While in office, Chirac benefited from presidential immunity from prosecution and refused to testify before investigators.

Toward the end of his 12-year presidency, polls declared Chirac one of the country's most unpopular modern presidents. After he was succeeded by his former protege and government-minister-turned-rival Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac's popularity rose and he became regarded as the unofficial grandfather of the nation.

The trial involving Chirac and nine other defendants began in March at the Paris Correctional Court after 11 years of legal arguments. It was then adjourned until fall.

In a statement read to the court by one of his lawyers at an earlier hearing, Chirac insisted he had committed "no legal or moral fault."

In an article in Le Monde newspaper this year, he wrote: "Never were funds belonging to the city of Paris used for any other purpose than on behalf of Parisian men and women. Never was there personal enrichment." He said he knew nothing about the political party funding scandal.