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French Judge questions Chirac over corruption

The former French President could face up to five years in prison and a $107,500 fine if found guilty from alleged corruption.
The former French President could face up to five years in prison and a $107,500 fine if found guilty from alleged corruption.
  • Authorities are investigating Jacques Chirac over alleged corruption charges
  • Officials believe the alleged charges stem from his time as Mayor of Paris
  • Chirac could face a five-year prison sentence and a $107,500 fine
  • The former president denies the allegations
  • France
  • French Politics
  • Paris

Paris, France (CNN) -- Former French President Jacques Chirac has been placed under investigation for allegations stemming from his time as mayor of Paris, his office said Friday.

A judge in Nanterre, near Paris, questioned Chirac Friday morning over the employment of seven people who were hired by the city of Paris in the early 1990s. The suspicion is that the employees were working for Chirac's right-wing political party, RPR, which no longer exists, while on the city payroll.

Chirac, 77, was mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995, the year he became president.

The case in Nanterre is similar to but separate from another investigation in Paris, in which Chirac is accused of using 21 city employees to work on his presidential campaign.

In a statement released by his office Friday, Chirac pointed out that he had "already answered all the questions related to this investigation regarding the seven jobs in July 2007 and that no new facts have surfaced since then."

Chirac could face a five-year sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros ($107,500) if found guilty of using the employees to work for his party.

The former president denies the accusations.

"On the investigation itself, President Chirac repeats that no such 'system' has ever existed in the Paris city hall," the statement said. "He is determined to demonstrate this through the procedure which was started by being placed under investigation."

The former French head of state also said he "wishes the investigation to progress as quickly as possible to establish once and for all that he is beyond reproach."

Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe was already sentenced in December 2004 for his role in the affair, but Chirac benefited from presidential immunity at the time. After Chirac left office in May 2007, he made it known he was available to answer any questions on the matter.

Current Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe had no comment about the investigation, according to officials with the city of Paris, which lodged the initial complaint against Chirac.

The former president remains popular in France. A survey released Thursday, conducted by the opinion research company IFOP for Paris Match magazine, showed that 78 percent of French people have a positive opinion of Chirac -- making him the highest-rated politician since the survey began in November 2003.

CNN's Luc Lacroix contributed to this report.