France rocked by TV star trial

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The Independent Online
Lyons (AFP) - A corruption trial involving a leading right-wing politician and France's top television presenter among other high-profile defendants opened yesterday, in the latest blow to the political establishment.

Michel Noir, a former minister and mayor of Lyons, and the television anchorman and national institution Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, are to appear in court over the next three weeks, accused of embezzlement in connection with a fraudulent bankruptcy.

The case is being dubbed "The Botton Trial" after Mr Noir's son-in-law, Pierre Botton, alleged to have defrauded his companies of F33m (£4.1m), two-thirds of which were for his personal use.

Mr Noir, a member of parliament and once considered a potential president, is accused of receiving more than F880,000 from various Botton companies, spending the money on travel, hotels, designer suits and his cello teacher and, sometimes, on his political activities.

Mr Poivre d'Arvor, anchorman on France's TF1 channel since 1987, with a nightly audience of eight million, will be questioned about an estimated F537,000 of plane and helicopter trips, meals and hotels, paid for by Botton's companies.

An anti-corruption judge, Philippe Courroye, who investigated the Botton case, said the journalist's professional ethics must have made him "question the origin of the funds from which he was benefitting."

Mr Poivre d'Arvor, 47, will not be reading the news during the trial. "It would not be right to be reporting on my own trial," he said.

Mr Botton was also in court yesterday, as were nine other defendants, including the mayor of Cannes, Michel Mouillot. Charles Giscard d'Estaing, a nephew of former president Valry Giscard d'Estaing, is also to appear.