[JURIST] A French judge on Friday placed former French president Jacques Chirac [official profile; JURIST news archive] under preliminary investigation over allegations that he misused public funds while serving as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. Chirac is accused of financing the Rally for the Republic (RPR), now renamed as the Union for a Popular Movement [party website, in French], by illegally establishing fake city positions for party members to collect salaries totaling several million dollars. He met with Judge Jacques Gazeux Friday morning and was informed that he had been placed under formal investigation [Le Monde report, in French]. Chirac has denied any wrongdoing but could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors must now decide whether to bring formal charges.
Chirac was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] on related charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds in October. Following this order, Chirac will be the first former French president to stand trial since the formation of the current Republic in 1958. The charges were originally filed in 2007 [JURIST report] after Chirac's presidency ended and he no longer had judicial immunity. In July 2007, French investigating magistrates questioned Chirac as a material witness [JURIST report] in their probe of the corruption allegations.