Ex-minister is found guilty of corruption

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A senator and former interior minister was convicted of corruption while in office and given a one-year suspended jail sentence yesterday.

Charles Pasqua, once a close ally and mentor of both Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, was one of the most colourful and feared figures in French politics for three decades.

The bulldog-faced 83-year-old was found guilty by 15 judges of arranging kick-backs to his family on contracts for police weapons while he was Interior Minister between 1993 and 1995. But he was cleared of two other charges by a rarely-summoned special court which deals with ministerial wrongdoing. Despite the senator's advanced age, the public prosecutor had asked for a jail term of four years, only two of them suspended, as an exemplary punishment for a prominent public figure. But the Cour de Justice de la République, the only court which can judge alleged criminal acts committed by ministers while in office, imposed only a 12-month suspended sentence. Pasqua's son had been convicted by a regular court over the case and jailed for a year.

The senator, a former drinks salesman, was influential in Mr Chirac's early career before breaking with him over European policy, and was an ally of Mr Sarkozy during the President's rise to power. Pasqua is still under investigation for alleged corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.