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April 19, 2005
Le Scam Francaise

Arthur Chrenkoff notes that France has quietly surpassed the Canadians in graft, with a corruption trial involving high-level aides of Jacques Chirac that has received surprisingly little attention so far:

A major corruption trial has begun in France involving allies of President Jacques Chirac from his time as Paris mayor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Among the 47 accused are former Sports Minister Guy Drut, who is currently on Paris' Olympic bid committee.

The trial centres on a system alleged to have been initiated by President Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR).

Companies are accused of paying major political parties to win contracts to renovate schools around Paris.

Prosecutors argue that the RPR and its ally, the Republican Party, received donations worth 1.2% of awarded contracts, while the Socialists got 0.8%.

This clever little money-laundering scheme bears a strong resemblance to the Adscam scandal in Canada, except that the French corruption involves multiple political parties instead of just the ruling party, and the kickbacks were more blatant. The structure of the con revolved around a government program, just like in Canada, which awarded millions of Euros for works to support a public good -- in this case, renovating Parisian schools. Jacques Chirac initiated the Rally for the Republic program in 1989, and it ran for eight years, almost exactly the same amount of time as Adscam.

The French twist shows up in the contracts that the winners had to accept. Each contract contained a "voluntary" 2% kickback to the political parties, which eventually got split on a 3-2 ratio between the Republican and Socialist parties, respectively. This did not mean that contractors could not "voluntarily" make life easier on Chirac's aides as well in order to win these multi-Euro contracts, and the trials of several Chirac cronies allege that they reaped significant personal benefits from these contractors.

So why does this scandal get so much less play than its Canadian counterpart? Probably because we have so much lower expectations of ethics and integrity of the French. Perhaps, though, the French might surprise us with their own expectations of their leaders. (via CQ reader Bruce Chang and Media Lies)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 19, 2005 10:41 PM

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