Chirac denies cash allegations

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The Independent Online

French President Jacques Chirac has strongly denied newspaper allegatons that he knew about shady cash funding for his conservative party while he was prime minister.

French President Jacques Chirac has strongly denied newspaper allegatons that he knew about shady cash funding for his conservative party while he was prime minister.

In a strongly worded statement, he refuted claims in the respected Le Monde publication.

Le Monde published what it claimed was a transcript of a video interview made by a property developer and one-time member of the central committee of the Chirac's Rally for the Republic.

Jean-Claude Mery, who was himself investigated for illegal party funding in the 1980s and early 1990s, allegedly made the video in 1996 with the help of a television producer, Arnaud Hamelin.

He died in 1999 and the transcript was made available to Le Monde, with his accord, the paper said.

In the transcript, Mery describes handing over five million francs, about £400,000, in cash to an official from the Rally for the Republic, known as the RPR, in the presence of Chirac in 1986.

Le Monde also quoted Mery as saying he collected between 35 and 40 million francs, about £2.75m and £3m, for various political parties, including the RPR.

But Chirac's office hit back, saying: "The reported allegations were false.

The statement said: "The way in which the President of the Republic is being blamed today is disgraceful.

"This procedure which consists of making a dead man speak is open to all kinds of manipulation. It is based on a recording made four years ago by a person who died more than a year ago.

"In a democracy justice should triumph over calumny."

The statement added that Mery's alleged confession contradicted previous testimony in court.

Last year, France's constitutional court ruled that Chirac can't face criminal charges as long as he is president.

Chirac is no stranger to whiffs of scandal.

He was Paris mayor before his election to the presidency in 1995 and has come under scrutiny regarding an alleged employment scandal during his tenure at the City Hall.

Several political figures close to him at the time have been targets of an investigation, including Alain Juppe, former prime minister under Chirac.

Chirac is expected to seek another term in the next presidential elections in 2002.

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