Former French President Chirac
Former French President Chirac Reuters

A court in Paris has found the former President of France Jacques Chirac guilty of corruption and sentenced him to a two-year suspended prison term.

Jacques Chirac has breached the duty of probity required for public officials, to the detriment of the public interest of Parisians, said tribunal judge, Dominique Pauthe.

The case relates to a period when Chirac was Mayor of Paris and was accused of having diverted public funds, embezzlement and violating the public trust.

Specifically, he was charged with paying salaries to members of his conservative ’Rally for the Republic’ Party for nonexistent jobs.

Of the nine men charged in the indictment, only two were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Chirac could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and been hit a fine of 150,000 euros ($195,000).

Chirac, now aged 79, did not attend the trial due to increasing senility and lapses in memory. He has always maintained his innocence.

Chirac’s attorneys may seek an appeal to overturn the conviction.

For those expecting the case to be thrown out or at least no penalty, the ruling may appear disappointing, Georges Kiejman, one of Chriac’s attorneys, told reporters.

I hope this judgment won't change at all the profound affection that the French people still have towards Jacques Chirac.

The case has been going on for years. In fact, France’s current foreign minister Alain Juppe (among several others) were convicted in connection with the case as long ago as 2004 when Chirac was the sitting president. Juppe received a 14-month suspended sentence at the time.

Chirac served as President of France from 1995 to 2007; and Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. He enjoyed immunity from prosecution while head of state.

According to French media, Chirac is the first former head of state of France to be convicted since Phillipe Petain, the leader of the Vichy regime in World War II, was found guilty of collaborating with the German Nazis.