President Jacques Chirac was fighting last night to regain control of a fast unravelling scandal encircling his political power base.
M Chirac seized charge of an inquiry into alleged telephone taps, break-ins and violent threats against judges investigating Alain JuppÃ©, the former prime minister and his heir apparent, convicted on Friday of organising illegal party funding.
The extraordinary intervention came the day after the justice ministry announced it would investigate the allegations.
His gazumping of his own ministry indicates the seriousness with which he is taking the insinuation that he or his allies tried to pressure the judges in the JuppÃ© case.
A statement issued by the prime minister’s office said M Chirac had asked for three of the most senior judges in Paris to oversee the investigation and report to him in a month. “If these allegations are proved, they will be extremely serious,” said the statement.
It is the first time M Chirac has launched such an inquiry, despite similar allegations over many years from magistrates investigating his colourful political past.
JuppÃ© and 21 of M Chirac’s former aides and business partners were convicted in relation to the funding of M Chirac’s RPR party during the late 1980s and early 1990s.0