A chronology of key events in the French corruption scandal threatening to engulf Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
June: Inquiry opens into suspicions that bribes were paid to French officials for the sale
of six French frigates to Taiwan in 1991 worth $2.8bn. Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke is put in charge of the investigation.
9 January: Dominique de Villepin, then foreign minister, asks a senior intelligence officer, Gen Philippe Rondot, to investigate "rumours" of corruption linked to the sale.
3 May and 14 June: Judge van Ruymbeke receives two letters and a CD-Rom from an anonymous sender. The documents contain bank account numbers at Clearstream, a Luxembourg-based clearing house, and hint at secret payments worth millions of dollars. There is also a list of prominent business and political figures, including Nicolas Sarkozy, then economy minister.
3 September: A defamation inquiry is opened following legal action by several of the businessmen named in the Clearstream list.
November: The scandal turns political when Mr Sarkozy accuses Mr de Villepin - his chief rival to become the candidate for the centre-right in the 2007 presidential election - of concealing the conclusions of an intelligence report clearing him of the allegations.
December: Judge van Ruymbeke proves the anonymous allegations are fabricated.
31 January: Mr Sarkozy becomes a civil plaintiff in the defamation
inquiry to gain access to the case files, followed by several other figures named in the list.
Late March-early April: Investigative judges carry out searches at the headquarters of the French foreign secret services (DGSE) and at the offices of Airbus chief Gustave Humbert in a bid to identify the anonymous accuser.
13 April: Searches are carried out at Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's offices and at Gen Rondot's former offices.
28 April: Le Monde newspaper reports Gen Rondot told judges Mr de
Villepin had asked him on 9 January 2004 to investigate Mr Sarkozy, invoking President Jacques Chirac's authority. Mr Villepin and Mr Chirac deny the claims.
2 May: Mr de Villepin rules out resigning, saying he has been
"unjustly accused". In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Gen Rondot denies Mr de Villepin ever asked him to investigate any politicians.