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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 17:38 GMT
Cresson faces fraud inquiry

Edith Cresson: Facing Fraud allegations


The European Commission has lifted the legal immunity protecting the former French prime minister, Edith Cresson.

She faces charges of fraud during her tenure as the European Union's education commissioner.

The allegations against her went to the heart of a scathing report into the European Commission, which forced all 20 commissioners to resign en masse.

Miss Cresson is reported to have welcomed the decision to lift her immunity as an opportunity to defend herself.

The EU move to lift Miss Cresson's immunity follows a request from the Belgian authorities.

Rampant fraud

Belgian magistrate Benoit Dejemeppe wants to question her about large payments she is alleged to have made to her dentist and long-time friend, Rene Berthelot, who she hired as a consultant.

Mr Berthelot was to compile a report for the commission, but the work is alleged actually to have been carried out by civil servants in Miss Cresson's office.

Last year, the European Union's anti-fraud unit, Olaf, was highly critical of Miss Cresson and the way the entire commission functioned.

Its 142-page report concluded that the 20 commissioners, with responsibility for the day-to-day running of EU departments, had lost control and that fraud, nepotism and financial mismanagement were rife.

Miss Cresson has always denied the allegations against her.

She said she was being made a scapegoat although, following the commission's resignation, she admitted there had been a "certain dysfunction" in its operations.

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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  Europe
Belgium goes after Cresson
16 Mar 99 |  Europe
Cresson: The 'careless' commissioner
29 Mar 99 |  Europe
The EU's dark hour: Special report

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