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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 17:57 GMT
French sleaze inquiry names names
Alfred Sirven was arrested in the Philippines last year
Elf boss Alfred Sirven has already faced charges
More than 40 people - including former ministers - are named in an official report on one of France's biggest corruption cases.

Investigating magistrates on Monday ended an eight-year inquiry into allegations that politicians and directors of the formerly state-owned oil company, Elf Aquitaine, connived to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars.

Those named in their report have 20 days to respond to the allegations.

Because of the complexities of the case, it could be more than a year before the first trials get under way.

Elite under fire

Among those named is former interior minister and current presidential candidate, Charles Pasqua. He is suspected of using company planes for personal purposes.

Roland Dumas was convicted for misuse of funds
The Dumas trial fascinated France with its lurid details
Former Elf director Loik Le Floch-Prigent, who is also named, has been put under formal investigation on 30 counts related to the investigations.

His right-hand man, Alfred Sirven, also features in the report.

Mr Sirven was arrested in the Philippines last year after almost four years on the run.

He was brought to trial in the first part of the Elf scandal, involving former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.

Mr Dumas has already been sentenced to six months' imprisonment in a case linked to the Elf scandal.

International links

Eva Joly
Eva Joly led the long and difficult inquiry
Monday's report, however, investigates a much more far-reaching web of slush funds and corruption.

Investigations began in 1994, led by magistrate Eva Joly, focusing initially on Elf's financing of the Bidermann group.

But the inquiry soon widened as investigators found evidence of a network of graft stretching to Spain, Germany and Africa.

Elf's purchase of the Leuna refinery in east Germany has come under particular scrutiny.

But the investigation found no evidence to support allegations that the deal was linked to a scandal over the funding of Germany's Christian Democratic Party under former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

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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