Paris, Nov.19 : Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is to stand trial over an alleged smear campaign that he launched against Nicolas Sarkozy before he became the President of France. De Villepin has been ordered to stand trial in a criminal court, reports The Telegraph.
De Villepin is accused of orchestrating the leak in 2004 of a faked list of account-holders at the Clearstream bank in Luxembourg, which included Sarkozy's name. The names were supposed to have benefited from illegal commissions from arms sales.
A judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigative judges have ordered the conservative ex-premier and four others to stand trial over allegations they had roles in an effort to smear Mr Sarkozy before he was elected.
De Villepin faces charges of "complicity in slanderous denunciations" - which he has vigorously denied - and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Unlike the others, he can appeal against the judges' ruling - but only if he chooses to argue the alleged wrongdoing was conducted as part of his official duties. He was serving as foreign minister at the time of the alleged crimes.
The scandal broke when a judge received an anonymously sent computer disc that accused Sarkozy and other top officials of using the Luxembourg bank to hide kickbacks from the sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.
The charges proved baseless and investigators turned their attention to finding out who had sent the disc.