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Mayor in fraud probe

The Mayor of Paris, a close ally of both the French President and Prime Minister, is under investigation for embezzlement of public funds three years ago, according to the magazine Le Point.

Jean Tiberi - whose wife is already being investigated by magistrates for the same affair - will receive a letter placing him under formal examination in the next few days, according to the magazine. The mayor, who was deputy mayor under Jacques Chirac at the time of the alleged wrong-doing, rejected Le Point's account yesterday as "the propagation of false information". He said he would take legal action against the magazine.

His wife, Xaviere, is accused of having received 200,000 francs (pounds 22,000) in a sweetheart deal with a local council in the Paris region in 1994. Mrs Tiberi received the money for drawing up an allegedly pointless report on links between French local government and former French colonies in Africa.

According to the satirical and investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine, the report was mostly plagiarised by a researcher from published sources and was, in any case, of no practical use to the departement of the Essonne.

Le Point reports in its edition published today that the two magistrates examining the payments have discovered that the money was placed in a bank account held jointly in the names of both Mr and Mrs Tiberi.

Last December the chairman of the Essonne council, Xavier Dugoin, directly implicated Mr Tiberi in the affair. He said he was seeking access to the "network of contacts" of the then Number Two in the Paris town hall. He had several conversations with Mr Tiberi in which it was agreed how he would engage the services of Mrs Tiberi and how she would be paid.

The affair is potentially seriously damaging for President Jacques Chirac and the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe.