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Falling stars fail in French court bids

Two former whizzkids of French politics - the showman of the centre-left, Bernard Tapie, and one of the country's youngest-ever ministers, the Gaullist Alain Carignon - came to grief in the courts yesterday, losing appeals that offered their last hope of political survival.

The two cases originated in the last corruption clampdown, initiated by the Socialist prime minister, Pierre Beregovoy, and continued by his Gaullist successor, Edouard Balladur. As both concern politicians who have been largely disowned by their parties, the verdicts carry little political weight. They were, however, severe.

Alain Carignon, who was briefly environment and communications minister in Mr Balladur's government, had his earlier conviction for corruption upheld and his sentence increased to four years' imprisonment, with one further year suspended. The original term had been three years in prison, with two further years suspended.

Bernard Tapie, who was urban affairs minister in the last two Socialist governments, had his appeal against being made bankrupt summarily dismissed.

Bankruptcy brings automatic disqualification from political office. With the appeal pending, Mr Tapie could keep his seat. Now, although he remains a Euro-MP and says he will appeal to the European Court, his days as a French MP seem numbered.