It is the latest twist in a French affair, but this time the saga could well and truly have been put to bed.
The City of Paris has dropped complaints against France’s former president Jacques Chirac who has been accused of embezzlement while he was the capital’s mayor. It comes after an agreement to repay more than two million euros in lost council funds.
By an overwhelming 147 to 13, Paris councillors voted to pull out of the corruption case.
For some the deal has left a nasty taste. Green politician Yves Contassot said: “I really like being told that now a pickpocket, or a kid who pinches a t-shirt from a supermarket or mugs someone, can return what he has stolen and be absolved.”
Immune from prosecution while he was president, investigating judges went after Chirac for embezzlement as soon as he departed the Elysee in 2007.
But, now his successor’s ruling UMP party has reportedly agreed to repay 1.5 million euros, with Chirac paying the rest.
The 77-year-old still faces the prospect of a trial at the end this year or early in 2011, but the deal with the council removes a major hurdle. It was the last plaintiff other than the state.
The charges against the former French leader date back to when he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. During this period Chirac is accused of allowing the capital’s city hall to pay people for non-existent jobs in return for political favours.
He completely denies any wrong doing. His office insists he remains confident he will prove before the court that none of the employees were fictitious.
The first time a former French head of state has been indicted on such charges, Chirac faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. But, the latest deal means that in reality such a sentence would be highly unlikely, even if one of France’s most popular ex-presidents is found guilty.