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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
French ex-minister on trial for forgery
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Strauss-Kahn: Accused over forged bills
A major new corruption trial has begun in France, only months after the spectacular downfall of former foreign minister Roland Dumas.

Ex-finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn is facing charges of forgery, two years after he was forced to resign from the government when the allegations surfaced.

He has also faced investigation over other affairs which have rocked the French political establishment, including the Elf Aquitaine scandal which led to Mr Dumas' conviction.

Mr Dumas was given a six-month prison sentence for illegally receiving public funds from Elf, channelled through his former lover.

Some observers believe the new trial could cast a cloud over socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, under whom Mr Strauss-Kahn served - possibly influencing Mr Jospin's presidential hopes.

Innocence protested

Mr Strauss-Kahn, 52, is accused of forging bills for work he carried out for an insurance fund while he was a lawyer, before becoming finance minister. He denies the charges.

He could be jailed for up to three years if found guilty. If cleared, he has said he wants to return to politics.

He insists he stood down as a minister only to avoid embarrassment to the government while clearing his name.

Prosecutors in the case are said to believe that Mr Strauss-Kahn did do the work for which he submitted the bills, but the bills themselves were allegedly forgeries.

Tests have shown that the paper and typeface did not exist at the time they were dated.

Roland Dumas
Dumas: Elf scandal led to his downfall
Mr Strauss-Kahn says they were backdated for simple administrative reasons, and not through any dishonest motive.

The work was done for the National Insurance for French Students, or MNEF, which handles health insurance for 800,000 students.

Mr Strauss-Kahn has also previously been placed under investigation over the Elf scandal, which saw millions of dollars of bribes finding their way from corporate funds into politicians' hands.

He was accused of "receiving corporate funds", because his personal secretary had part of her salary paid by Elf.

Mr Strauss-Kahn also featured heavily in the row over France's extraordinary "smoking gun" video - a filmed account of how Paris politicians were allegedly bribed during Jacques Chirac's time as mayor of the city.

The film was made by a former Chirac aide, Jean-Claude Mery, who left the video when he died.

Mr Strauss-Kahn allegedly held a copy of the tape for years before it became public.

See also:

18 Jun 01 | Europe
French elite hit by sleaze claims
18 Jun 01 | Europe
French fallout nears government
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Elf king who fell from power
02 Mar 01 | Europe
Kohl charges dropped
17 Feb 00 | Europe
German sleaze: The story so far
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