A KEY fugitive from criminal investigations into corruption in President Jacques Chirac's political party said yesterday that he was returning to France after seven years on the run in the Caribbean.
Didier Schuller, wanted for questioning over the illegal financing of Mr Chirac's neo-Gaullist party, the RPR, through systematic kickbacks on council housing contracts, is expected to arrive in France today or tomorrow. His announcement provoked near- panic in the RPR, with presidential elections less than three months away and President Chirac already faltering in the opinion polls.
Mr Chirac's close ally, the former prime minister Alain Juppe, accused the Socialist party, and by implication Lionel Jospin, the Prime Minister, of somehow manipulating Mr Schuller's return. He said the Socialists and their allies in the press were trying to "attack people by stirring up trouble".
Mr Juppe was unable to explain how the Socialists might have been able to control a man who had been a senior RPR official and fixer before he fled France during the previous presidential election in 1995.
Mr Schuller's presence in the Dominican Republic was revealed two weeks ago by his son, who said he disapproved of his father's refusal to come home and help in the investigations. …