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French Judge Questions Chirac in Corruption Probe


Former French President Jacques Chirac was questioned by a French judge for more than four hours Thursday, as part of a political party financing scandal that dates back to his tenure as mayor of Paris.

Mr. Chirac was interviewed as a material witness, which means he is not personally under investigation. However, under French law he could eventually face charges, if investigators find evidence of a crime.

The case centers on allegations that Mr. Chirac's conservative Rally for the Republic party created fake jobs and paid party operatives with government funds after Mr. Chirac was elected mayor in 1977.

Writing today in the French newspaper Le Monde, Mr. Chirac said that during the eighties and nineties France had no legal provisions regarding political financing. He said it became customary for political parties to raise money from both "private firms and public budgets."

Mr. Chirac was immune from prosecution while he was president, but lost that protection when his term ended in May.

In 2004, a French court handed down a 14-month, suspended prison term and year-long ban from politics to Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and Chirac ally.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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