Arkansas governor on felony charges

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in Washington

Governor Jim Guy Tucker of Arkansas was last night indicted on three felony counts arising from the Whitewater affair - the highest ranking public official so far to fall foul of the controversy which has dogged President Bill Clinton.

The charges brought by a federal grand jury in Little Rock, where the probe of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr is based, accuse Mr Tucker, who succeeded Mr Clinton as governor in 1993, and two associates of lying to a bank eight years ago to obtain $300,000 (pounds 187,000) which they are said to have used for personal purposes.

If convicted Mr Tucker, a Democrat, would not only be stripped of office but could face up to 12 years in jail and a fine of as much as $700,000. Also charged are William Marks, a Florida businessman who was Mr Tucker's partner in a cable TV venture on whose behalf the money was purportedly being raised, and Mr Tucker's attorney, John Haley.

Last night Mr Tucker had no comment on the development, but in recent months he has complained of being victim of a politically inspired witchhunt conducted by Mr Starr, a Republican, aimed at discrediting Mr Clinton. There is no indication that the President is in any way connected with the case against Mr Tucker.