Former French president Jacques Chirac is due in court this week to face corruption charges.
A trial centred on allegations he created bogus jobs to help fund his political party opened in Paris on Monday. Chirac, who is under no obligation to attend, is expected to appear on Tuesday.
Chirac is a giant of the French political scene having twice been prime minister, and served two terms as president in a career spanning more than 40 years. Over the course of this time, accusations of corruption have flown and been gunned down by one of world politics’ smoothest operators. French satirical TV show Les Guignols named his character “Super Menteur” (Super Liar) but not once have prosecutors been able to pin him down. Now they have their chance.
The allegations he’ll be defending himself against in court date back to his time as Mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995. He stands accused of creating fake jobs for allies in his RPR political party and paying them salaries using state funds. It’s claimed their salaries were effectively used towards driving the political machine that carried him to the presidency in 1995.
There are in fact two cases against him, both relating to the fake jobs scandal. One case brings charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, the other relates to a conflict of interest charge. Chirac, now 78, denies all the accusations against him.
Chirac agreed last year to settle a total of 2.2 million euros with Paris City authorities, meaning the town hall will not be among his accusers in court. Despite the deal, Chirac and his party did not acknowledge any wrong-doing.
Paris state prosecutors have said they do not believe there is enough evidence to convict Chirac. In theory he could face a fine and a 10-year prison sentence but it is unlikely, given recent reports of his ill-health, that Chirac would serve any time behind bars if ever he was found guilty.
Chirac is the first former French head of state to face trial since Marshal Philippe Pétain was convicted of treason for collaborating with the Nazis during World War II.