Leotard looks set to survive corruption allegation

A PROSECUTOR has recommended that corruption charges against Francois Leotard, one of the most promising younger generation of French politicians, be dropped. The Lyons prosecutor looking into Mr Leotard's role in awarding a building tender in the port of Frejus, where he was mayor until charges were laid last June, told the city's appeal court on Monday that there was no case. The court will rule on 19 January.

If Mr Leotard, 50, a leader of the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF) who is a likely future presidential candidate, is cleared, he will have a clean slate before National Assembly elections on 21 March. The elections are virtually certain to bring a conservative government to power, heralding a second 'cohabitation', a right-wing cabinet under the Socialist President, Francois Mitterrand. Mr Leotard made it plain earlier this month that he was a candidate for prime minister.

Edouard Balladur, of the Gaullist RPR party and the Finance Minister under the original 1986-88 'cohabitation', is the most favoured prime ministerial candidate. Mr Leotard has been tipped as foreign minister under Mr Balladur.

The allegation against Mr Leotard focused on the 1986 purchase for 1.2m francs ( pounds 145,000) of a house which he had previously rented. The vendor had bought the property some years before for nearly six times that price. Mr Leotard's defence was that he had carried out work on the house and had not bought all the original land. He agreed to pay additional tax on the purchase. Then it emerged that the vendor, Henri Meyer, had won a tender from Frejus municipality to build a yacht harbour. Rene Espanol, an unsuccessful bidder for the contract, filed the complaint which led to the charges.

News that Mr Leotard may be cleared came just after the entrepreneur Bernard Tapie was reinstated to his post of Minister for Towns following the dropping of a charge against him inspired by a complaint from a former business associate.

Both Mr Tapie and Mr Leotard, although his age technically disqualifies him, are so-called 'quadras', the 'fortysomethings' regarded as the new hope of French politics. With Mr Mitterrand, 76, coming up to retirement at the end of his term in 1995 and the right bogged down in an 18-year feud between Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former president and UDF leader, and the Gaullist leader, Jacques Chirac, the 'quadras' are seen as more in tune with the nation than their elders.

Other well-placed 'quadras' are Philippe Seguin of the RPR who campaigned against the Maastricht treaty, the ecologist Brice Lalonde and Bernard Kouchner, the Health and Humanitarian Action Minister. Two others, Michel Noir, the centre-right mayor of Lyons, and Laurent Fabius, the Socialist Party first secretary and former prime minister, are in trouble. Mr Noir's son-in-law is in custody for alleged fraud, a scandal which has tarnished the mayor's reputation. Mr Fabius took some hard knocks this month as he wavered over whether to go before the High Court with two of his former ministers in France's HIV-tainted blood scandal.

Mr Seguin, despite being at odds with the RPR leadership over Maastricht, has been appointed one of the party's policy- making 'mammoths' and now accompanies Mr Chirac to public appearances. Mr Lalonde, whose Generation Ecologie is allied with the rival Greens party for the March elections, looks set to take a chunk of the Socialist vote. Mr Kouchner, a founder of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, is, according to one poll, the most popular French politician of 1992.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable