The trial of the former President of France, Jacques Chirac, on corruption charges has commenced in Paris.
Chirac, 78, is charged with misappropriating public funds while he was the mayor of Paris, prior to his term as President. Specifically, he is accused of providing phony city hall jobs to his friends and associates between 1977 and 1995.
There is no evidence that Chirac himself profited from this scheme.
Chirac denies all charges.
On a historical basis, he is the first former head of state to face criminal charges since Field Marshal Philippe Petain was charged (and convicted) of treason after the Second World War.
Despite rumors of ill health (including that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease), Chirac is expected to show in court himself, although under France’s laws, he is not required to be there. He had in fact avoided prosecution for more than two decades, citing immunity as head of government.
Nine other people also face charges in the trial, including Remy Chardon, Chirac’s former chief of staff.
Ironically, the principal plaintiff in the case, the City of Parris, has dropped out of the trial, after having settled with Chirac to the tune of 2.2-million euros.
Chirac faces up to ten years in prison if convicted, although given his age and prominence, he is unlikely to serve any time behind bars.