Chirac allies go on trial over bribes scandal

Major scandal in french government :D

Senior allies of Jacques Chirac, including four former government ministers, are among almost 50 people who go on trial in Paris today accused of involvement in one of the worst corruption scandals in French history.

Charged with rigging public works contracts in order to finance the country's major political parties, their testimony threatens to "dynamite" the country's political establishment and heap embarrassment on the French president.

A total of 47 people, including politicians from across the political spectrum, are accused of rigging public works contracts in Paris in exchange for bribes running to tens of millions of pounds. At the heart of the inquiry is a former senior aide to Mr Chirac.

The accused, who face a range of charges relating to corruption in the handling of the contracts, could be jailed for up to 10 years if convicted.

France has become accustomed to a steady flow of investigations over illicit party funding, but this is the first time that all the main political groups have been brought to book on what prosecutors describe as collective state racketeering.

The trial centres on a system alleged to have been initiated by the RPR - the party founded by Mr Chirac - in which firms were promised generous contracts in a vast project to revamp school canteens, but only in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

Over a 10-year period from 1988 to 1997, an estimated £50 million was allegedly pilfered from contracts worth £2.5 billion and redistributed to the RPR, its ally the Republican Party, and the Socialists, prosecutors will argue.

Investigators believe that the figure could be much higher, as much of it has allegedly not been accounted for. Civil servants, businessmen and public works executives are also accused of benefiting from the scam, dubbed the "lyceé dossier".
French corruption case

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