Chirac guilty

Former French president Chirac convicted of graft, escapes jail time

Popular former French president Jacques Chirac was convicted of graft on Thursday but escaped jail, receiving a suspended two year sentence for running ghost workers at Paris city hall.

The 79-year-old statesman, who was excused from court on medical grounds, was found guilty of influence peddling, breach of trust and embezzlement between 1990 and 1995, when he was mayor of the French capital.

In their ruling, judges said Chirac’s behaviour had cost Paris taxpayers the equivalent of US$1.8-million (1.4-million euros).

Readers of this blog may remember Blacque Jacques sipping piña coladas earlier in the trial; now his lunch money shenanigans while he was mayor of Paris earned him a slap in the wrist while others are in the clink,

He was tried alongside nine alleged accomplices. Two were cleared, but the rest were convicted of helping Chirac run a system at Paris city hall under which political allies were paid municipal salaries for fake jobs.

The city of Paris, which is now run by a Socialist mayor, dropped a case for damages over the case after Chirac and his UMP party agreed to pay 2.2-million euros to cover the embezzled funds.

Chirac — who lives in a luxury Paris flat overlooking the Seine near the Eiffel Tower paid for by the family of the late former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri — repaid 500,000 euros out of his own pocket.

He was convicted of hiring members of his political party for non-existent municipal jobs, using the civic payroll to employ his own campaign staff.

In all, 19 fake jobs were created in Paris and its suburb Nanterre between 1990 and 1995, ahead of Chirac’s successful presidential bid.

Several people were convicted in connection with the ghost worker case in 2004, including Juppe, who was found guilty of mishandling public funds but is now a key figure in the government of Chirac’s successor Sarkozy.

C’est la vie, mon mes amis.

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