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The BBC's James Coomerasamy
"This is about a huge amount of money"
 real 56k

Christine Ockrent, political journalist
"The president is quite well protected by his presidential status"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Sleaze questions for Chirac's daughter
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (l) and President Chirac (r)
President Chirac: At the centre of a growing scandal
Investigating magistrates in France have questioned President Chirac's daughter over suspect cash payments made by her father for private trips for himself, his family and friends.

Claude Chirac, who works as an adviser to her father, was asked in particular about two specific flights to New York and Kenya, judicial sources said.

Claude Chirac
Claude Chirac is her father's image adviser
She is reported to have told the investigators the trip to New York was professional, and she was not present on the other.

Investigators want to discover where Mr Chirac obtained some 2.4m francs ($312,000) in cash, used to pay for air tickets in the mid-1990s before he became head of state.

The president's office has said the money came from secret, but legal funds which Mr Chirac had previously controlled when he was prime minister.

BBC Paris correspondent James Coomarasamy says the affair is extremely damaging to Mr Chirac, who is expected to run against Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in next year's presidential election.

Kickbacks

If the money came from a legal source, it suggests Mr Chirac used taxpayers' money to lead a life of luxury, our correspondent says.

But there are darker suspicions that it may have come from kickbacks on public works contracts during Mr Chirac's time as mayor of Paris.

Mr Chirac's wife, Bernadette, is also expected to be questioned.

The French newspaper Le Monde quoted sources close to the president as saying such a step would be tantamount to a "declaration of war."

The scandal has embarrassed Mr Chirac, who has come under intense pressure to explain why he paid cash for trips to several foreign locations.

Prosecutors are still deciding whether or not the head of state can be called as a witness.

Two-thirds of French people think he should, but the Elysee Palace has said the country's constitution bars him from testifying in any criminal investigation.

Aides to the president said he would answer the allegations in a televised interview on Saturday - France's annual Bastille Day.

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See also:

11 Jul 01 | Europe
Clouds gather around Chirac
26 Jun 01 | Europe
Chirac faces cash payments probe
21 May 01 | Europe
Chirac faces impeachment bid
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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