French judge who was removed from probe against Chirac quits

January 15, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PARIS - The French judge who led the main investigations into allegations of corruption against President Jacques Chirac, but then was removed from the case last fall, has resigned from the bench, saying his work had been "sabotaged" at every turn.

Eric Halphen delivered a blistering attack on France's justice system as he spoke out for the first time in yesterday's Le Parisien.

He said he had once believed that "the same justice existed for everyone." But after seven years of investigating a vast kickback scheme that Chirac has been accused of masterminding when he was mayor of Paris in the 1980s and early '90s, Halphen said, he no longer believed that was true.

"I've had my eyes opened," said Halphen, 42. "People who make off with large sums of money escape justice or get insignificant sentences, while the thief who steals a handbag on the underground gets six years. We had a two-speed justice system."

Halphen said his efforts to get at the truth had been undermined by procedural tricks, manipulations of the news media and a lack of cooperation, including among police. At various points, Halphen said, he was followed and filmed, and his phones were tapped.

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