Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin questioned by police over financial scam
FORMER French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is being questioned by police over an investigation into suspected financial wrongdoing involving a network of luxury hotels.
• Dominique de Villepin questioned over luxury hotel scam
• 58-year-old former prime minister served under Jacques Chirac
Villepin, who served under former President Jacques Chirac as his chief-of-staff, foreign minister and prime minister from 2005 to 2007, was questioned by police about alleged links with a man suspected of conducting a scam involving luxury hotel chain Relais & Chateaux.
French magistrates are investigating whether a friend and political backer of Villepin siphoned off large sums of money when he was in charge of the hotel network.
The 58-year-old former prime minister, best known internationally for announcing Chirac’s refusal to join a war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in an impassioned speech at the United Nations in 2003, denied any wrongdoing when the fraud affair came to light last December.
Villepin was dragged into the probe after police phone taps exposed links between him and the man at the centre of the probe, Regis Bulot, president of the Relais & Chateaux network until 2006 and a member of a Villepin support club.
Villepin was embroiled in the affair when on the verge of entering the presidential election race in May. Responding to accusations that he was involved in the scandal, Villepin told Le Monde: “It’s unbearable that I am being implicated in a matter I have nothing to do with.”
An appeals court cleared Villepin last year of allegations of taking part in a smear campaign targeting arch-nemesis Nicolas Sarkozy, who replaced Chirac as president.
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