15 Dec 2011

Jacques Chirac guilty of corruption

Former French President Jacques Chirac is given a two-year suspended sentence for corruption, in a trial that made with the first conviction of a French head of state for 66 years.

Former French president Jacques Chirac has been found guilty of misusing public funds, making him the first head of state in France to be convicted of an offence since 1945.

Chirac was tried on charges of diverting public money into phantom jobs for political cronies while he was mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995.

In the absence of the 79-year-old, who was president from 1995 until 2007, the judge declared Chirac guilty and handed down a suspended two-year jail sentence.

The trial has made history by producing the first conviction of a head of state since Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain in 1945.

But the former president was excused from much of the proceedings on the grounds of failing memory.

In theory, Chirac could have been sent to jail for 10 years, the maximum sentence for the charges against him. Mr Chirac has always rejected the charges against him.

In a letter to explain his absence, read out to the court by his solicitor, the former president said he was not at fault, either criminally or morally.

He continued: “This trial gives the lie to those demagogues who claim that justice in our country is harsh towards the weak and benign to the powerful. In this republic, justice is the same for all.”