(Updates with appeal decision in sixth paragraph.)
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Former French President Jacques Chirac was found guilty by a French criminal court of misusing Paris city funds during his years as mayor.
Chirac, 79, was found guilty of all three charges against him related to diverting city money to benefit his political party and reward supporters, the court ruled today. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence, meaning he won’t be jailed unless he commits further offenses.
The mayor of Paris from 1977 until 1995, except for a two- year period when he was prime minister, Chirac is the first French head of state to stand trial since World War II. The corruption investigation was delayed until after he stepped down as president in 2007 by rules shielding sitting leaders from investigations for anything short of treason.
Chirac “was the initiator and principle author” of the plan through which Paris funds were used to benefit party loyalists, Judge Dominique Pauthe said today. “His deliberate actions failed his duties to the detriment of Paris.”
Twenty-eight job contracts were reviewed by the court. Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds on 12 of the posts.
Chirac won’t appeal, even if he “categorically contests the judgment,” his office said in a statement to Agence France- Presse. In a statement read by his lawyer Jean Veil at the September trial, Chirac denied “having committed any criminal or moral wrong.”
Two of Chirac’s nine co-defendants were cleared. The others were found guilty of either aiding in the scheme or benefiting from it. They also received suspended sentences, or in one case, no penalty at all.
Prosecutors said in September that Chirac should be cleared, arguing all the jobs were legitimate. Under the French legal system, independent investigating judges decide whether a case should go to trial, even if prosecutors don’t agree.
The City of Paris dropped its claim after reaching a settlement in which the former president and the Union for a Popular Movement, successor to Chirac’s party, paid 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) without admitting any guilt. Parisians and an anti-corruption activist group, which sought to be considered victims in the case, had their claims rejected today.
Chirac, who was dubbed “Super Liar” while president, could have been sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison and a 375,000-euro fine ($487,000).
Chirac’s age and health -- his presence at the trial was waived for health reasons and he didn’t attend the verdict reading -- as well as the settlement and years since the crimes took place, were all mitigating factors in determining his sentence, Pauthe said.
--With assistance from Gregory Viscusi in Paris. Editors: Anthony Aarons, Christopher Scinta
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