A former Justice Minister of France who was strongly tipped to become the country’s first female President was today facing up to 15 years in prison after being charged with a range of corruption offences.
The indictment of Rachida Dati, 55, follows a glittering career which at one stage saw the right-wing conservative being entertained by the Queen and Prince Philip at a Windsor Castle state banquet.
On Tuesday night, financial prosecutors in Paris confirmed Dati had been charged with ‘passive corruption by a person with a public elected mandate while working in an international organisation,’ which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a fine equivalent to £128,000.
Dati was also charged with personally ‘benefitting from the abuse of power,’ which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of £320,000.
The alleged offences relate to highly secretive consulting work that Dati did for the disgraced former Renault chief Carlos Ghosn, who is now a 67-year-old internationally wanted fugitive.
The indictment of Rachida Dati (pictured), 55, follows a glittering career which at one stage saw the right-wing conservative being entertained by the Queen and Prince Philip at a Windsor Castle state banquet
Dati is said to have received a sum equal to £766,000 (€900,000) from Ghosn, who is said to have defrauded motor companies including Renault out of multi-millions.
The cash to Dati was paid as legal fees by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, prompting complaints by anti-corruption watchdogs in France.
Dati was a Member of the European Parliament while working for Ghosn between 2010 and 2012, and prosecutors believe she was engaged in lobbying, which is illegal for an MEP.
A source close to the case said Dati had asked Ghosn to keep her work for him ‘strictly confidential’ as she tried to help Renault expand its global business.
Dati was questioned by prosecutors for 16 hours in November, but was initially give the status of ‘assisted witness’.
The cash to Dati (pictured) was paid as legal fees by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, prompting complaints by anti-corruption watchdogs in France. Right, Dati at Windsor Castle
This was changed to a full-blown indictment this month, however, said a spokesman for prosecutors.
There was no initial comment from Dati’s legal team, but they have previously claimed the allegations should be struck out because they happened long before the three-year statute of limitations on prosecuting such crimes.
Dati is also a close political ally and friend of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was given a prison sentence earlier this year after being found guilty of trying to bribe a judge.
Sarkozy is currently on unconditional bail while appealing the sentence, but faces further corruption trials.
Dati, who is currently the Mayor of Paris’s 7th arrondissement, accompanied Sarkozy and his third wife, the former supermodel Carla Bruni, on a state visit to Britain in 2008.
There was no initial comment from Dati’s legal team, but they have previously claimed the allegations should be struck out because they happened long before the three-year statute of limitations on prosecuting such crimes. Pictured, Dati with Nicolas Sarkozy
It was then that the hugely ambitious Dati met the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.
At the time, Dati, the daughter of a Moroccan builder, had been promoted to Justice Minister, and many were tipping her to become President of France.
In 2012, Dati started legal action against billionaire casino boss Dominque Desseigne, saying he was the father of her daughter Zohra, then three.
Mr Desseigne refused a paternity test, leading to a French civil court declaring he was the father, and thus liable for maintenance.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on financial misconduct allegations and spent four months in detention before jumping bail and smuggling himself out of the country.
He is now believed to be in Lebanon, despite Interpol trying to get him rearrested.
France’s current Justice Minister, Eric Dupond-Moretti is also facing up to five years in prison after being charged with using his government position to settle scores with old enemies.
The 60-year-old was this month indicted with ‘an illegal conflict of interest’ – an offence that is punishable with a half a decade in jail and a fine equivalent to £430,000.
Dupond-Moretti was a celebrity barrister before President Emmanuel Macron recruited him to reform France’s legal system last year.