France's sprawling corruption scandal involving the former state-owned oil company Elf Aquitaine struck another prominent politician today with confirmation that former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been placed under investigation.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as France's economic chief Nov. 2 after evidence surfaced that he had falsified documents related to legal fees he received before he joined Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government.
The new charges, involving misuse of state funds, are separate.
The two judges investigating corruption at Elf Aquitaine before it was privatized in 1994 turned up records that Strauss-Kahn's longtime secretary, Evelyne Duval, had been paid about $30,000 from Elf Aquitaine accounts for work she performed at a political association Strauss-Kahn co-founded seven years ago. As Elf Aquitaine was a majority state-owned enterprise, Strauss-Kahn and Duval are being investigated on charges of misusing public funds.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Jean Veil, confirmed that his client had been placed under formal investigation by the magistrates charged with the many-fingered Elf Aquitaine inquiry, Eva Joly and Laurence Vishnievsky.
Depending on the outcome of their inquiry, Strauss-Kahn might have to stand trial. His wife, television personality Anne Sinclair, told the Agence France-Presse news service that Strauss-Kahn would not comment.
Strauss-Kahn's name had not previously appeared on the list of French political figures suspected of benefiting from illegal Elf Aquitaine payments channeled through an offshore company.
This week late French president Francois Mitterrand was added to the list when it was reported that he had ordered Elf Aquitaine to pay $15.7 million in "commissions" from an East German refinery deal to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic party in 1994.
Philippe Jaffre, the CEO of Elf Aquitaine after its 1994 housecleaning, confirmed today that the oil group had turned over nearly $40 million in commissions from the refinery sale to a front company called Noblepac. A middleman named Andre Guelfi, who ran Noblepac, last month admitted that he had paid commission money to a German political party, but could no longer be certain which one it was.