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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Timeline: France's Clearstream scandal
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.

See how French newspapers are covering the political scandal

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