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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 01:15 GMT
Belgium goes after Cresson

EU Strasbourg Scandals have damaged the Commission's credibility


By Justin Webb in Brussels

The Belgian authorities have asked the European Commission to lift the legal immunity of the former French Commissioner Edith Cresson.

Mrs Cresson - a former French prime minister - is accused of corruption and mismanagement, but until now has not faced any criminal charges.

Edith Cresson Little sympathy for Mrs Cresson
The allegations against her surround her decision to hire one of her friends, a retired dentist, Rene Berthelot, as a scientific adviser.

He was paid a total of BFr5.5m ($134,600).

When Mrs Cresson was asked to produce the work he had done, she provided documents which were later alleged to be forgeries designed to hide the fact that Mr Berthelot had not genuinely been employed.

Reply 'soon'

Mrs Cresson departed the European scene when the entire Commission resigned last March.

The files on the case were handed to the Belgian police, and the Brussels Public Prosecutors Office has now confirmed that a magistrate wants to question the former commissioner.

A Commission spokesman said the request was being studied and a reply was likely soon.

There is little sympathy for Mrs Cresson among existing commissioners and it may well be that they feel she should face criminal charges over accusations that did much to bring the entire institution into disrepute.

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See also:
16 Mar 99 |  Europe
Cresson: The 'careless' commissioner
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kinnock unveils EC reforms
29 Mar 99 |  Europe
The EU's dark hour: Special report
16 Mar 99 |  Europe
EU plunges into crisis

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