French prosecutor requests trial of ex-foreign minister

Sex-and-kickback case involves 7 other people

February 11, 2000|By N.Y. TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PARIS -- A French prosecutor has asked that former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, a past mistress and six other people stand trial on corruption charges stemming from a sex-and-kickback scandal involving the former national oil company.

The prosecutor, Pierre Dintilhac, told investigators in the case that evidence was sufficient to try Dumas as an accomplice in a scheme to embezzle corporate funds.

The prosecutor said Dumas had helped his former mistress, Christine Deviers-Joncour, get a job as a lobbyist with the former national oil company, Elf Aquitaine, from which she later received millions of dollars in illegal payments.

He said Dumas had benefited from Deviers-Joncour's windfall in the form of cash and the use of a credit card and an expensive Left Bank apartment.

In the request, much of which was published yesterday in Le Monde, Dintilhac also accuses Dumas of seeking to mislead investigators by various means, "from refusals to answer to false omissions, from half-truths to actual lies."

The prosecutor recommended that Dumas stand trial with Deviers-Joncour; Loik le Floch-Prigent, former chairman and chief executive of Elf; Alfred Sirven, le Floch-Prigent's closest associate at Elf; and several other senior Elf executives. Elf, which has since been privatized, merged last year with its domestic rival, TotalFina.

The special judges who conducted the investigation and presented their results to Dintilhac must decide whether to accept his recommendation for a trial.

It is by no means clear that the silver-haired Dumas, 77, who took a leave of absence last March from the Constitutional Council presidency, the country's fifth-ranking office, will ever face a court. France's highest court will hear arguments this month that the case be dismissed because of irregularities surrounding the 1997 arrest of Deviers-Joncour, who was held for five months in preventive detention.

If the prosecutor's request is granted, the trial will be the first to emerge from a tangled six-year investigation into how a knot of senior executives bilked Elf of hundreds of millions of dollars between 1989 and 1993, when it was still government-owned.

The investigation has also illustrated how big, state-owned French concerns were used for decades as giant slush funds by politicians who appointed compliant cronies to run them.

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