Magistrates quiz former French PM over ‘scam’
Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin was taken into police custody yesterday for questioning by magistrates investigating a suspected financial scam involving a luxury hotel network.
Mr Villepin, 58, premier in 2005-7 under conservative president Jacques Chirac, was questioned about his ties to a man suspected of fraud and was released after seven hours.
He denied any wrongdoing in the affair that surfaced last December.
“I was able to restate calmly and simply in what is standard procedure that I’m in no way implicated in the sorry affair that involves one of my friends,” he said in a statement.
Magistrates are investigating whether a friend and political backer of Mr Villepin siphoned off large sums of money when he was in charge of an association of luxury hotels called Relais & Chateaux.
Mr Villepin was dragged into the probe after 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 Mr Villepin support club.
The affair first emerged publicly in Le Monde late last year when Mr Villepin was on the verge of entering May’s presidential election race, a move he ultimately abandoned.
Le Monde said at the time it had access to phone tap records that raised police suspicion about possible attempts by Mr Villepin to influence judicial inquiries into Bulot.
Mr Villepin was Chirac’s chief-of-staff, then foreign minister, interior minister and prime minister. A year ago, an appeals court cleared him taking part in a smear campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy, who replaced Chirac as president.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west