Guilty of embezzlement — the verdict making Jacques Chirac the first former French head of state to be convicted of a crime since the end of World War Two. A court in Paris gave him a two-year suspended jail term meaning he will not spend any time behind bars.
Chirac was tried on charges of diverting finances into phantom jobs for political allies when he was Mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995.
Prosecution lawyer Jeremy Afane-Jacquat said: “It’s an historic judgement. It’s the first time that a former president has been sentenced by French courts. It’s a wonderful event that shows no one is above the law.”
Chirac benefited from immunity from prosecution while president, and for some time afterwards it was unclear whether he would stand trial. In the end his lawyer seemed relieved with the verdict.
Defence attorney Georges Kiejman said: “I continue to believe that, given the few contracts identified as having broken the law, this trial was perhaps no longer necessary after so many years. What I hope is that this ruling doesn’t change in any way the deep affection the French people legitimately feel for Jacques Chirac.”
Chirac was excused from attending the proceedings because of a failing memory. Less than five months before a presidential election, the opposition Socialist Party said the verdict vindicated its call to end immunity for those holding the country’s highest office.