...Continued from page 1

The arms deal with Taiwan also seemed to involve financial irregularities, and I believe some citizens in that country may have resigned whatever posts they had.

On Wednesday, state prosecuting judge Eva Joly, who has been working seemingly endlessly for years investigating the affairs of Elf, had a 85 minute conversation with Roland Dumas about Elf and about the Taiwan deal.

Thursday's news reports said that Mr. Dumas' responses did not satisfy Eva Joly, and he was required to put up five million francs worth of bail to maintain his liberty. Another condition is that he is not allowed to travel to Luxembourg or Switzerland or Monaco or Antigua.

Mr. Dumas was a Minister of a Socialist government - the Foreign Minister - at the time of the alleged irregularities and he is currently the President of the Constitutional Council, under the present Socialist government.

In France, all bills passed by the National Assembly and the Senate, are scrutinized by the Constitutional Council, before becoming laws. If they fail to pass the constitutional tests, they are sent back to the legislative bodies for appropriate revisions. Running this constitutional hurdle in advance, sort of makes having a US-version of a Supreme Court redundant.

Quite naturally, some opposition figures are calling for Mr. Dumas' resignation from his important post - but he has decided to keep his job.

In fact, he is counter-attacking the judges - on the grounds that their particular court lacks jurisdiction - and the case should be heard by the 'Cour de Justice de la République,' the only court able to judge government ministers.

There is no 'Grand Jury' system in France. No specially selected jurors have heard Eva Joly's allegations or Roland Dumas' responses to them.

This double case of influence-peddling and corruption is similar to a tax fraud case; what may have been common practice then is illegal now - partly because prosecutors have decided to take action to apply the laws of the country, but also partly because somebody snitched.* The mis-paid Elf funds are thought to amount to either 45 or 66 million francs.

What makes this a case a bit different is its constitutional aspects. In French law there is no provision for a case landing between constitutional justice and criminal justice, and none whatsoever that foresees Roland Dumas resigning his post as President of the Constitutional Council.

Regardless of how it ends up in court, Roland Dumas like everybody else in France, is already as good as ten percent guilty.

For a slightly different view of this affair, but sure to read this week's ''The Toqueville Connection.' See 'France's Top Judge Under Investigation' in Toqueville's 'Politics and Society' section, right after their analysis of the latest Front National activities.

*Two beliefs common in France are that tax inspectors get a percentage of what they recover from dubious 'clients,' and that people who denounce the dubious 'clients' get a cut too. This first is untrue - but I am not certain about the second.

Meet the Tax Inspector

Just 18 months ago, it seemed slightly doubtful that France would be able to meet the fiscal rules for joining the European Monetary Union by the deadline of 31. December 1998. The goal was to bring the budget deficit down to the three percent level.

This goal seems to have now been met, thanks in part to the diligence of the tax inspectors, who have managed to find an extra 72.8 billion francs owed by taxpayers, some of it unintentionally. Another 13.2 billion francs in fines and penalties brought the total to 86 billion francs in 1997.

Companies have been getting extra attention too, and those six months in arrears in paying the value-added taxes they have received, have fallen to six percent from ten. This is important, because this tax brings in far more than income taxes on personal revenue.

The number of income tax declarations rose slightly to 30.8 million, but the number of actual tax bills fell because of increased numbers of incomes below the minimum taxable revenues.

Since GNP has been rising at rates below two percent for years, higher rates of taxes combined with higher rates of tax recovery has helped the government meet its 'Euro' budget goals. This may set the stage for a possible improvement in the overall economy.

Good News - Bad News

The good news of the week came on Thursday when the government announced that the number of unemployed in France had dipped below the three million level for the first time since rising above it in January 1996.

This gives an average rate of unemployment of 12 percent. The unemployed rate for those under 25 is 22.8 percent, and for persons out of work for more than a year is a whopping 38.3 percent.

Jacques Chirac Sells France - To Japan

While I was helping to open the annual Foire de Paris on Wednesday, President Chirac was in Tokyo selling the 'Euro' to the Japanese Prime Minister, on the eve of opening the 'Year of France' in Japan.

It was the end of Mr. Chirac's 44th visit to Japan and he'reds' at republique used it to take a swipe at the 'professional pessimists,' while visiting 'Big Sight' in Tokyo Bay, the location of something between the Salon de l'Agriculture and the Foire de Paris, with its eight cows, 17 sheep, 15 goats and hundred-odd French companies.

Once you've seen one red flag, you haven't seen them all.

Paris' own Statute of Liberty is now on holiday in Tokyo Bay. After its inauguration, Mr. Chirac had his photo taken in front of it, together with the actor Jean Reno and David Douillet, of judo fame.

SportsNews

For the Coupe de France, tonight at the Stade de France: PSG - 2, Lens - 1. The game tonight was followed by a very large party on the Champs-Elysées, which has lasted until long after today was over.

Furious Moms Raid the SportsBar

While real SportsFans lead otherwise normal lives, those at the SportsBar, known as the Football Café explained to their wives about their dreams about the rapidly approaching World Cup championship matches. The wives were not amused, but failed to dislodge the true SportsFans from their 'Football Caf&eacute.' in which they are twirling away their thoughts, while spouting their soccer-psycho-babble and drinking World Cup SportsBeer. Three cheers and a huzza-huzza! for the Football Café and for the determination of the SportsFans!'

Less uplifting are the 'official' Web sites: represented by the FIFA - which stands for Federation International - and the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO. I don't what the initials stand for, just like RATP does not sound like métro to me.


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