Image: Jacques Chirac
Srdjan Ilic  /  AP
Former French President Jacques Chirac during a news conference on Dec., 2001, in Belgrade. A magistrate has ordered Chirac to stand trial on charges of "embezzlement" and "breach of trust," an official said on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.
updated 10/30/2009 5:47:05 AM ET 2009-10-30T09:47:05

Former French President Jacques Chirac has been ordered to stand trial in an alleged corruption scandal dating back to his tenure as Paris mayor, a judicial official said Friday.

A magistrate has ordered Chirac to stand trial on charges of "embezzlement" and "breach of trust," the official said on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The investigating magistrate, Xaviere Simeoni, has been probing whether people in Chirac's circle were given sham jobs as advisers and paid by Paris City Hall, even though they weren't working for it.

Chirac's office said in a statement that he was "serene, and determined to prove in court that none of the jobs still being debated were fake." A prosecutor can still appeal the decision.

Suspicions of corruption and nepotism, mostly dating from his time as mayor, dogged Chirac's presidency. Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977-95 and president of France from 1995 until May 16, 2007.

But while judges closed in on those in Chirac's circle — his former Prime Minister Alain Juppe was convicted of party financing irregularities in 2004 — Chirac long used his presidential immunity to keep investigators at arm's length.

Immune no longer
After Chirac left the presidency and no longer had immunity, a judge filed preliminary embezzlement charges against him in 2007. Chirac's statement Friday acknowledging the decision to send him to court said he was not above the law.

The prosecutor's office had requested that the case against Chirac be dropped. That request said investigations turned up no proof of willful wrongdoing, and also said that the statute of limitations had expired on many of the events in question.

But the judge did not follow that recommendation.

On Friday, the judge said the breach of trust charges dated back to the period before 1994, while the embezzlement charges dated from March 1994 to May 1995 — when he was sworn in as chief of state.

More on: France

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