Calls mount for Chirac to testify in French corruption scandal

PARIS - Pressure increased on President Jacques Chirac to take the witness stand in a corruption scandal, with a Cabinet member and former justice minister calling on the president to testify.

Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said she was not satisfied with Chirac's vehement denial in a television interview Thursday of any role in an alleged illegal party financing scheme based in Paris City Hall, where Chirac was mayor for 18 years.

''He convinced me of one thing only: That justice must take its course,'' Voynet, who heads the Green Party, said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper Saturday.

In the alleged scheme, the mayor's office accepted millions of dollars from construction firms in the 1980s and early 1990s in exchange for building contracts and then funneled the money into political parties.

''Either he did not know what was happening, and so we can ask ourselves how he carried out his responsibilities as head of the RPR,'' Voynet said, referring to Chirac's Rally for the Republic party. ''Or he knew it, and his television defense is intolerable.''

Chirac enjoys immunity from prosecution, except in cases of treason, while in office. He is expected to run for a second term in 2002 elections.

Voynet said that Chirac should not be permitted to invoke the ''quasi-sacredness'' of his office to keep out of the courtroom in the ongoing case.

Former Justice Minister Robert Badinter echoed those words in a written commentary published in Saturday's Le Monde newspaper.

''Not only would he be obliged by law, like all other citizens, to give his testimony, but in terms of his high function, he would be morally obliged to do so more than any other citizen,'' said Badinter.

Allegations of Chirac's role in the kickback scheme surfaced several months ago when a videotaped confession by a party official was made public.

In the taped interview, Chirac was accused of being present when a suitcase full of illicit money was handed over to party officials. He denies any knowledge of the alleged kickbacks.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment