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Kohl set to escape criminal charges

Kohl
Kohl's reputation has been badly damaged  

BERLIN, Germany -- German prosecutors say they are prepared to drop a fraud case against former Chancellor Helmut Kohl on condition that he pays a fine.

The recommendation means Kohl would not face criminal charges over admissions that he took $1 million in undeclared cash donations while in office.

The Justice Ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia said on Thursday public prosecutors are ready to shelve their investigation if the former leader of the Christian Democrats pays 300,000 marks ($142,000).

That recommendation has to be approved by a court in Bonn.

A spokeswoman for Kohl, now an ordinary parliamentarian, said he would make a decision on whether to accept the fine if and when that approval was given.

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CNN's Chris Burns: No intention to send Kohl to jail

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"That could take a few days," she said.

Kohl's lawyers have previously said such a fine was acceptable.

CNN's Chris Burns, in Frankfurt, said payment of a fine would appear to imply some degree of guilt, but it would mean that Kohl, whose reputation has been badly damaged by the affair, would not have a criminal record for breaking party funding laws.

The scandal, which broke in 1999, brought his conservative Christian Democrats to the verge of break-up.

The party has been in opposition since 1998 when Gerhard Schroeder ousted Kohl after 16 years of rule, and it is still dogged by the aftermath of the affair.

Thursday's developments do not mark the end of the story. A parliamentary investigation is under way examining, among other things, possible links with the scandal involving France's former state-owned Elf oil company.

Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas is among those charged in a multi-million-dollar corruption trial.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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