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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK

World: Europe

France cancer fraud trial begins

Millions of francs meant for research were diverted

The former head of a cancer charity goes on trial in France today, accused of embezzling millions of francs from the organisation.

Jacques Crozemarie, 73, had been president of the Association for Cancer Research (ARC) since its foundation in 1962 until early 1996.

He now stands accused of fraud and embezzlement of up to $45 million (about 300 million francs), between 1991-1996.

BBC Paris Correspondent Stephen Jessel: "Crozemarie is accused of benefiting to the amount of $3m"
Mr Crozemarie and 25 colleagues are said to have diverted these funds to Swiss bank accounts, using them to live in grand style.

Investigators said they had swindled private donors through an elaborate system of inflated invoices and money laundering.

Shocking scandal

Reports say France was rocked by the scandal after the discovery that the ARC had spent only a little over a quarter of its budget on research.

An investigation began in 1996 after state auditors made the discovery. Mr Crozemarie, who denies the allegations, was forced out of his post in January 1996.

Mr Crozemarie has already spent six months in pre-trial detention, he attempted suicide last February when tax authorities seized his assets.

An estimated 140,000 people die of cancer every year in France. Donations to the ARC fell from 135m francs to 43m francs in 1996, after the fraud was exposed.

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