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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 12:48 GMT
Chirac judge claims sabotage
Jacques Chirac at the Court de Cassation
Halphen compares Chirac's actions to Richard Nixon's
James Coomarasamy

The French investigating magistrate who led the main investigation into allegations of corruption against President Chirac has announced he's retiring, saying that his work was sabotaged.

When I became a magistrate, I had an ideal of justice. The same justice for everyone

Eric Halphen
In his first ever interview, Judge Eric Halphen, who worked on the case against President Chirac for seven years, told Le Parisien newspaper that, in his view, justice does not exist in France.

He was taken off the case after France's highest court ruled that Mr Chirac has presidential immunity and could not be called as a witness.

Jacques Chirac
Polls show Chirac neck and neck with Lionel Jospin
In a wide-ranging and angry interview Eric Halphen announces he's leaving public office now that his attempts to bring President Chirac to court have ended in failure.

He says he was followed, filmed and bugged during the seven years he worked on a number of highly sensitive corruption cases.

Many of those date back to the period when Mr Chirac was Mayor of Paris - and the current French leader has been accused of if not benefitting from, then at least knowing about kickback schemes.

Mr Halphen alleges that he was sabotaged at every turn of the investigation and compares cases involving French politicians to those involving the Italian mafia.

They kept putting sticks between the spokes. They permanently tried to stop me investigating

ERic Halphen
In his interview Eric Halphen makes it clear just how disgusted he is with the decision that the president's immunity prevents him being questioned, and compares Mr Chirac's actions to those of the American President, Richard Nixon.

Mr Nixon, he says, resigned over a matter that was a thousand times less serious.

France's Gaullist leader is expected to stand for re-election in April.

With the polls putting him neck and neck with his likely challenger, the socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, the corruption allegations which continue to surround him may prove to be an important factor.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"He says he was followed, filmed and bugged"
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Europe
Chirac corruption inquiry halted
26 Jul 01 | Europe
Another setback for Chirac
18 Jul 01 | Europe
Chirac escapes sleaze questions
14 Jul 01 | Europe
Chirac hits back at critics
28 Sep 00 | Europe
Cheques, lies and videotape
07 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: France
12 Jul 01 | Media reports
Chirac's 'house on fire'
20 Jul 01 | Europe
Q & A: Chirac's corruption battle
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