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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 15:13 GMT
French court clears ex-minister
Roland Dumas
Dumas has been free pending the appeal
Former French foreign minister Roland Dumas has been cleared of involvement in one of the country's biggest-ever corruption scandals, amid emotional scenes at a Paris appeals court.

I am happy that I have been given justice

Roland Dumas
The court overturned the guilty verdict against the 80-year-old, who was convicted of receiving bribes from the former state-owned oil giant Elf-Aquitaine.

Mr Dumas was given a six-month prison term at the original trial two years ago, for allegedly receiving Elf-funded gifts from his former mistress. He had been at liberty pending the appeal.

"I am happy that I have been given justice," Mr Dumas told the French news agency AFP.

Correspondents say this is the latest and possibly last episode in a saga that has cast an unedifying glimpse at the lives of France's rich and influential elite in the early 1990s - the dying era of the late Socialist President, Francois Mitterrand.

Christine Deviers-Joncour (r) in court
Dumas's ex-mistress admitted she wanted to blacken his name
Elf bosses were running a multi-million dollar slush fund to buy favours for themselves and third parties.

The court that Mr Dumas was showered with lavish gifts from his mistress, as part of a deliberate Elf campaign to influence government policy.

Convictions against the top Elf officials involved in the scandal were upheld by the court.

Former Elf president Loik Le Floch-Prigent was sentenced to 30 months in prison and his former deputy Alfred Sirven - the mastermind of the fund - received a three-year jail sentence.

(Dumas) hoped for this from the bottom of his heart. I saw his eyes fill with tears and I also cried

Jean-Rene Farthouat
Dumas' lawyer
Mr Dumas' former mistress, Christine Deviers-Joncour, was sentenced to 18 months in jail and given a suspended sentence of another 12 months.

Mr Dumas insisted throughout that he had no idea of the source of the money behind the presents.

The argument was dismissed at his original trial.

But the appeal court judges found in his favour, ruling there was no proof that he did know the source of the cash.

"Justice has triumphed," said Mr Dumas' lawyer, Jean-Rene Farthouat. "(Dumas) hoped for this from the bottom of his heart. I saw his eyes fill with tears and I also cried."

The appeal hearing had also heard Ms Deviers-Joncour admit that she set out to blacken her former lover's name.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jon Sopel
"He always protested his innocence"
See also:

30 May 01 | Europe
18 Jun 01 | Europe
18 Jun 01 | Europe
06 Feb 01 | Europe
04 Feb 02 | Europe
16 May 01 | Europe
17 Dec 01 | Europe
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