A French court found former President Jacques Chirac guilty of embezzling public funds to illegally finance the conservative party he long led, in a historic verdict Thursday with repercussions for his legacy and France’s political elite.
Chirac, a savvy world diplomat and icon of France’s ruling establishment for decades, will not go behind bars but was handed a two-year suspended sentence that goes on his criminal record. Anti-corruption crusaders, long frustrated by dirty dealings in the French political machine, rejoiced at the conviction.
He’s the first former French head of state to face prosecution since the World War II era. But the 79-year-old former leader did not take part in the trial, after doctors determined that he suffers severe memory lapses.
The court said Thursday it had found Chirac guilty in two related cases involving fake jobs created at the RPR party, which he led during his 1977-1995 tenure as Paris mayor. He was convicted of embezzling public funds, abuse of trust, and illegal conflict of interest.