16 Dec 2011

Guilty verdict for Chirac

5:44 am on 16 December 2011

A court in France has found former President Jacques Chirac guilty of diverting public funds and abusing public trust.

Chirac, 79, was not in court to hear the verdict because of ill-health, but denied wrongdoing. He was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

President from 1995 to 2007, he was on trial on charges that dated to his time as mayor of Paris.

The BBC reports he was accused of paying members of his party for municipal jobs that did not exist.

The prosecution had urged the judge to acquit Chirac and nine others accused in the trial. He had legal immunity during his time as head of state.

Two of the nine were cleared. The other seven were found guilty and all but one handed suspended prison sentences.

Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977 - 1995. He is the first former head of state to be convicted since Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of the Vichy regime, who was found guilty in 1945 of collaborating with the Nazis.