Continued from page 1

“Jacques Chirac is once again going to escape the justice system,” said Jerome Karsenti, lawyer for an anti-corruption association that was perhaps the leading civil party to the case.

The trial focuses on an alleged 28 jobs paid for by Mr. Chirac‘s Paris City Hall from 1992 to 1995, but for work that instead benefited his RPR political party and its allies. It has been brought by two investigating magistrates, in Paris and suburban Nanterre, whose two cases have been fused into one.

Jean-Yves Le Borgne, lawyer for former Chirac chief of staff Remy Chardon, argued that the statute of limitations had run out on the Paris case and that the one in Nanterre was joined to it just to get around that fact. The Paris case is seen as more severe because it involves more alleged fake jobs.

With France’s presidential election next year, the trial had shaped up as a glimpse of an underworld of kickbacks, corruption and embezzlement that long has roiled the French political system.

Mr. Chirac, president from 1995 to 2007, famously rallied world opinion against President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. Mr. Chirac is the first former French leader to go on trial since Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of France’s Nazi collaborationist regime, was convicted of treason and shipped into exile.

Pierre-Antoine Souchard and Cecile Brisson contributed to this report.