Ex-minister quits job as corruption case looms

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The Independent Online
GEORGINA DUFOIX, a former Socialist minister, has resigned her last official post after a court said she should face corruption charges.

Mrs Dufoix, 50, who had to quit as head of the French Red Cross and as an adviser to President Francois Mitterrand last year after she was instrumental in admitting George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to a Paris hospital, said on Thursday that she was stepping down from her responsibility in the organisation for fighting drug addiction.

Earlier, the Rennes appeals court ruled that Mrs Dufoix should face charges for allegedly receiving a commission of 1.87m francs ( pounds 224,000) from the builder of a state office block in the town of Reze and another 2.1m francs for the purchase of a scanner of American manufacture for a hospital in Nimes.

The court said the case should be referred to the High Court, the only legal entity empowered to try ministers for offences committed while in office. It has never sat during the 35- year-old Fifth Republic.

Mrs Dufoix, who was social affairs minister, said she was resigning from her Red Cross job 'to recover my full freedom of speech'.

Mrs Dufoix left her other posts in January last year after Dr Habash was admitted to a Red Cross hospital for a check-up. Mrs Dufoix had contacted senior officials at the Foreign and Interior ministries to ease his entry but the ministers themselves were never consulted.

The affair took on enormous proportions as an examining magistrate sought to question the Palestinian for terrorist activities. In the end, Jean- Louis Bruguiere, France's top anti- terrorist investigator, dropped the request and Dr Habash was allowed to leave the country.

Mrs Dufoix is one of three former ministers that haemophiliacs who have contracted Aids from blood products, want to see brought to trial. An appeals hearing into the case against four doctors who have already been tried for allowing the distribution of dangerous unheated products in 1985, although safe products had become available, opened this week.