- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

PARIS, Jan. 29 (UPI) — A Paris appeals court acquitted former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas Wednesday in a drama involving slush funds, suspicious frigate deals, and a questionable ex-mistress working for former French parastatal Elf Aquitaine.

The court, however, handed stiff sentences to an assortment of other characters in the Elf affair, which rocked France's business and diplomatic establishments two years ago.

Roland's former mistress, Christine Deviers-Joncour, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She was also handed a 12-month suspended sentence, despite already having served six months.

A former lingerie model, Deviers-Joncour was allegedly hired by Elf to help lobby

Dumas into granting the parastatal large commissions — including one to supply frigates to Taiwan.

She admitted to part of the allegations in a spicy book, "The Whore of the Republic," which became a best-seller in France.

But Deviers-Joncour later refuted the claims during the first Elf trial, in spring 2001, which riveted the nation.

The appeals court also sentenced two other key players in the trial — former Elf executives Loik Le Floch-Prigent and Alfred Sirven — to 30 months, and 36 months in prison respectively.

Dumas offered little comment about his acquittal Wednesday, apart from saying he was "happy" justice had been served. Handsome and dashing, 80-year-old Dumas has returned to his original profession as a lawyer.

During the Elf trial, Dumas accused Lionel Jospin's previous Socialist government of knowing about a series of illicit payoffs by Elf during the 1990s. Among them were claims Elf had passed funds to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Dumas asserted the alleged German payoffs were made with the tacit approval of former Socialist French President Francois Mitterrand, as part of larger corruption that took place during the Mitterrand years of the '80s and '90s.

One of Mitterrand's sons was also implicated in a separate and unresolved scandal that took place during that period, involving illicit arms exports to Angola.

Elf was privatized in 1994. It later merged to become TotalFinaElf, one of the world's top oil companies.

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