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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Chirac probe dropped
Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac: Immunity prevents investigation
A Paris judge has been forced to stop investigations into sleaze allegations against French President Jacques Chirac despite claiming to have evidence implicating him.

Judge Eric Halphen said he had proof Mr Chirac had been involved in corruption during his 18-year tenure as mayor of Paris.


Our country is today sadly facing a situation which the Americans went through with Watergate

Arnaud Montebourg
"There are enough clues now to make it probable that Jacques Chirac participated - either as the prime-mover or as an accomplice - in the commission of crimes," the newspaper Le Monde quoted him as saying.

But he has been forced to shelve the investigation because of the immunity the president holds while in office.

However, the claim to have found substantial evidence linking Mr Chirac to sleaze in Paris' City Hall could open the way to a prosecution after his presidential term ends in 2002.

Summons refused

For the past seven years Judge Halphen has been investigating claims that Mr Chirac's Gaullist RPR party lined its own pockets with money from public works contracts.

Last month he tried to summon Mr Chirac for questioning, but the president refused, claiming it was unconstitutional for him to be called to appear in court.

Now, the only way Mr Chirac could be brought before the courts would be if the National Assembly began impeachment proceedings.

Socialist deputy Arnaud Montebourg is already leading a campaign to do so.

"Our country is today sadly facing a situation which the Americans went through with Watergate," he said.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Europe
No-show Chirac faces press anger
28 Mar 01 | Europe
Chirac refuses court summons
28 Sep 00 | Europe
Cheques, lies and videotape
11 Jan 00 | Europe
Court upholds Chirac's immunity
19 Mar 01 | Europe
Chirac's accidental victory?
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