Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Jacques Chirac refuses to testify in political scandal

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PARIS

Having lost the presidential immunity that protected him from prosecution, former French president Jacques Chirac has refused to testify in a political dirty tricks scandal that sought to discredit President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The scandal involved false documentation that seemed to show large sums of money, presumably bribes, passing through secret bank accounts held by Sarkozy and others.

Sarkozy said at the time that the scandal had been orchestrated in order to ruin his chances for the presidency.

In refusing to be interviewed by investigators, Chirac argued that because he had immunity while he was president, he cannot be compelled to testify about things that happened during his tenure.

immunity

Chirac, 74, left office on May 16 after having governed for 12 years. His presidential immunity expired at midnight on June 16.

"The president of the republic is not responsible for acts committed in this capacity," Chirac's office said in a statement released on Friday.

The statement said he would cooperate with judges looking into events before his presidential tenure, which began in 1995.

Chirac faces potential charges in three cases involving events that occurred while he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.

Taiwan sale

The latest matter began in 2004 when investigators received a CD-ROM containing the names of supposed beneficiaries of kickbacks paid in the sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.

The list included secret bank accounts at Clearstream, a financial clearinghouse based in Luxembourg that had earlier been the subject of corruption charges.

Investigators determined that the information on the CD-ROM was false.

But notes later taken by an intelligence officer, General Philippe Rondot, suggest that former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin and Chirac ordered that Sarkozy be investigated.

De Villepin has denied that he asked Rondot to investigate Sarkozy or any other politician.

In March 2001, while Chirac was still president, he refused to attend a hearing on the the misuse of municipal funds.

Accusations in that matter include the creation of no-show city jobs for members of Chirac's political party and the use of public funds for Chirac's personal travel to Japan.

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