Former French PM charged with fraud

  • 2003-03-27

Former French Prime Minister Edith Cresson has been charged with fraud over allegations dating from her time as an EU commissioner in the late 1990s, a judicial official said on March 25.

A Belgian investigating magistrate, Jean-Claude Van Espen, "has decided to charge Mrs. Cresson and a few of her staff" with indictments including forgery and abuse of power, he said.

Cresson, who was French prime minister in 1991-1992, was informed last week by registered letter of the indictment, said Brussels prosecutors' office spokesman Jos Colpin.

The former prime minister was specifically charged with forgery and use of forgeries and abuse of power, while some of her staff were also indicted on corruption charges, he said.

The indictment against Cresson is being pursued in Belgian courts. Two months ago the European Commission said it was seeking explanations from Cresson over fraud allegations which led to the collapse of the then commission.

Cresson, who was commissioner for education and research in 1995-1999, was specifically accused of organizing the hiring by her department of Rene Berthelot, a retired dentist, in 1996-97. Berthelot was allegedly paid fictitious salaries amounting to some 150,000 euros.

Under EU rules the commission can take a case to the European Court of Justice if one of its members breaks commission rules. The current EU executive, led by Romano Prodi, who in turn replaced the discredited Jacques Santer, has been at pains to show itself as being corruption-free.