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The BBC's Justin Webb reports
"One of France's most celebrated movers-and-shakers has been found guilty of corruption"
 real 56k

Assistant editor Liberation Patrick Sabatier
"Now the political world is under much greater scrutiny than it used to be"
 real 28k

Charles Lambroschini, foreign editor of Le Figaro
"No one is above the law"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
Mitterrand ally guilty of corruption
Dumas arriving at the courtroom for the verdict
Mr Dumas had said dishonour would be "unbearable"
Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas has been jailed for six months after being found guilty in the country's biggest sleaze scandal.

Found guilty
The minister - Roland Dumas, six months in jail

The lover - Christine Deviers-Joncour, 18 months in jail

The company boss - Loik Le Floch-Prigent - three-and-a-half years in jail

The paymaster - Alfred Sirven, four years in jail
Seventy-eight-year-old Dumas, a minister in the Mitterrand administration, had denied involvement in a web of corruption centred on oil giant Elf Aquitaine.

His ex-lover, Christine Deviers-Joncour and two top Elf executives were also jailed for misusing funds in the embezzlement scandal.

Former company president Loik Le Floch-Prigent, 57, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. Alfred Sirven, 74, his former second-in-command - and controller of the company slush fund - got four years.

Both men were also ordered to pay fines of two million francs ($270,000). Mr Dumas must pay a million francs.

Christine Deviers-Joncour
Ms Deviers-Joncour: Elf millions channelled through her
The judges heard how millions of dollars were channelled through Ms Deviers-Joncour to lobby Dumas for support.

She got a three-year sentence, half of which was suspended. She sank into her chair, head in hands, as the sentence was announced.

The court heard that she had given Dumas lavish gifts including a pair of luxury shoes worth $1,500 and antique Greek statues worth some $40,000.

No emotion

The pair used to meet in a luxury flat in central Paris which Deviers-Joncour bought with her Elf income.

She later wrote a book, Whore of the Republic, in which she detailed their love affair.

Dumas, who had denied illegally receiving public money, showed no emotion as he listened to the guilty verdict and sentence against him.

But it was the moment he had dreaded. He had earlier told the court of the "unbearable reality" of facing dishonour at his age.

Alfred Sirven
Sirven: Controlled Elf slush fund
Dumas twice served as foreign minister during Francois Mitterrand's presidency and was promoted to head the Constitutional Court, France's fifth highest institutional position, in 1995.

As well as the six-month jail term, the Paris court also imposed another two-year suspended prison sentence on Dumas. He was cleared of getting Deviers-Joncour into Elf by installing her in a phoney job.

His lawyer said he would appeal.

Another of the seven original defendants, business middleman Gilbert Miara, was jailed for 18 months in prison and fined one million francs.

But two former Elf executives - Andre Tarallo and Jean-Claude Vauchez - were acquitted.

The corruption trial had gripped France since it opened in January.

Ripples

A major dramatic twist was added when Sirven, on trial in his absence, was captured in the Philippines after four years on the run.

He was brought back amid fevered expectation of what he might reveal about the affair, as the former controller of the Elf purse-strings. But in the end he refused to testify.

The ripples from the case have spread across the border into Germany, where Elf embarked on controversial expansion projects in Helmut Kohl's era as Chancellor.

The sale of six French frigates to Taiwan also remains unresolved. Deviers-Joncour says she was paid to make sure Dumas approved the deal, but the trial focused on other claims.

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See also:

24 Jan 01 | Europe
Dumas 'heartbroken' over trial
22 Jan 01 | Europe
A potential political earthquake
01 Mar 00 | Europe
Dumas resigns in corruption probe
12 Mar 01 | Europe
Profile: France's sleaze-buster
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Elf king who fell from power
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