A French court has convicted 79-year-old former President Jacques Chirac who is accused of embezzling public funds in the 1990s, and abusing public confidence and given him a two-year suspended prison sentence. He was not in court to hear the verdict because of ill-health, but his daughter was.
Chirac, who served as French President for 12 years, between 1995 to 2007, was put on trial on charges that dated back to his time as mayor of Paris – from 1977 to 1995 – for paying members of his Rally for the Republic (RPR) party for municipal jobs that did not exist.
He is the first former French head of state to be convicted since Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of the wartime Vichy regime, was found guilty in 1945 of collaborating with the Nazis.
The prosecution had urged the judge to acquit Mr. Chirac, whose doctors say he has irreversible neurological problems that cause memory lapses, and nine others accused in the trial. Two of the nine were cleared. The other seven were found guilty.
In 2004, during his presidency, several figures including France’s current Foreign Minister Alain Juppe were convicted in connection with the case. Juppe was given a 14-month suspended sentence.
The first count in Chirac’s case involved embezzlement and breach of trust in relation to 21 bogus jobs; the second related to a charge of illegal conflict of interest concerning seven jobs. He was found guilty of both.
During his time as head of state, Chirac, who had legal immunity, faced a potential 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros for the employment of more than 20 bogus officials.
The tribunal judge, Dominique Pauthe said that Chirac breached the duty of probity required for public officials, to the detriment of the public interest of Parisians.
Jacques Chirac’s legal team have yet to consider whether to appeal against the conviction, but sources close to the team have said they might not.