Guilty Dumas drags more ministers into bribes affair

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The former French foreign minister Roland Dumas ­ recently convicted of corruption ­ accused two senior, serving cabinet ministers yesterday of approving illegal payments to Germany's Christian Democrat party.

Dumas, convicted of taking de facto bribes from the Elf oil company, including a £1,100 pair of shoes, said the former President François Mitterrand was aware of the covert payments made by the company, which was then state-owned.

He "underwrote the whole project", Dumas said, including the illegal payments allegedly made to Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrat party as a kickback on Elf's purchase of the Leuna oil refinery in the former East Germany in 1992.

It was "surely the truth" that all senior officials at the Elysée Palace ­ the Presidential residence ­ "knew all about this affair", Dumas told the newspaper Le Figaro. He identified, by name, two advisers to Mr Mitterrand: Elisabeth Guigou, now Employment Minister in the centre-left French coalition government, and Hubert Védrine, now Foreign Minister. He also said that the Prime Minister at the time, Edouard Balladur, "equally gave his approval".

Both the serving ministers and Mr Balladur denied all knowledge of the affair. Dumas protested that he, alone, among senior French politicians, was being allowed to carry the can for the sprawling Elf affair, allegedly involving secret payments to serve French interests in Africa, Asia and Europe and kickbacks to French personalities and political parties. He appeared to be especially furious with Ms Guigou, who was Justice Minister in 1998, at the time that he was first accused, but did nothing to try to help him.

"If you accuse me of trying to pay Ms Guigou back, I won't contradict you," Dumas said. "If she happens to be among those who transmitted Mitterrand's order [on the Leuna refinery] and said, 'You must sign', and yet the only thing that anyone cares about is the story of one pair of shoes, then that is terrifying."

Dumas, 78, was convicted last month of "receiving embezzled funds" from Elf in 1989-93, in the form of gifts channelled through his mistress at the time, Christine Deviers-Joncour, including the hand-stitched Italian shoes. Deviers-Joncour and three other people were also convicted of abusing the company funds. All were given prison sentences; all have appealed.

Dumas ­ for many years one of the most important figures in French Socialist politics ­ has always insisted that his role in the Elf affair must be judged against the background of the wider state-approved chicaneries at the oil company, including the controversial sale of French frigates to Taiwan.

By naming other, senior politicians for the first time, Dumas seems to be planning a judicial scorched-earth policy before his appeal is heard later this year, or early next year.

His accusations will also have reverberations in Germany where judicial authorities are investigating alleged illegal funding of the former Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Dumas said yesterday that the late President Mitterrand approved illegal payments to the CDU "because he considered that they were useful for France".