msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/8/2010 2:13:58 PM ET 2010-11-08T19:13:58

Former French President Jacques Chirac has been ordered to stand trial in a second party financing case dating back to his 1977-1995 tenure as Paris mayor, judicial officials said Monday.

Chirac, 77, already is set to stand trial in March in one long-standing corruption case.

An investigating judge in the Paris suburb of Nanterre has now ordered him also tried for "illegal conflict of interest" in a similar case, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of judicial policy.

The prosecutor's office could appeal that order.

Chirac — who founded the Rally for the Republic party, the precursor to President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement — has for years been dogged by a series of party financing scandals, with allegations that he set up a system to feed millions of euros (dollars) of funds to his party.

While he held France's highest office from 1995 to 2007, Chirac used his presidential immunity to keep investigators away.

In the case investigated in Nanterre, Chirac has faced questions about seven jobs at his former conservative party that were improperly paid for by City Hall or by construction companies.

In the other case — also centering on a phony jobs scandal at City Hall — Chirac is charged with embezzlement and breach of trust.

His lawyers have expressed hope that the two cases could be tried at the same time.

Chirac has denied any wrongdoing and noted that France long had no judicial rules regarding a framework for party financing.

In a statement from his office, Chirac said he was "calm and determined" to prove his innocence, AFP news agency reported.

Chirac is vacationing in Morocco and has not commented in public.

An Ifop poll for Paris-Match found Chirac was France's most popular politician, with a 76 percent approval rating. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had a 44 percent rating.

"Jacques Chirac is a personality whom the French love very much. It's a shame that, at the end of his personal career, he be put on trial," said Dominique Paille, spokesman for Sarkozy's UMP party told AFP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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