Digging up slush funds

Recent and ongoing judicial investigations into French political party funding have uncovered some of the following scams:

Fictitious jobs: City Hall hired people and paid their salaries, but the employees did no work for the municipality. Instead, they worked for a political party (the one that controls City Hall). In one variant, businesses hired and paid someone who actually worked for a party.

Consultancies: All the major parties set up "consultancy firms," which then offered their services to companies in return for payment. Most often, however, they were paid without doing anything, and the money was funnelled into party coffers.

Public works kickbacks: Companies that want to do business with a municipality - repairing elevators in public housing or laying sewers for example - got the contract if they paid off the municipal official handing out the work, who in turn gave the money to his political party. Alternatively, public works projects were split up into multiple contracts worth 299,999 francs (about $40,000) each, that were assigned to favored businesses. The amount avoids the legal obligation of a public tender for contracts worth 300,000 francs or more.

Building permits: In the early '90s, several parties did a roaring trade in selling local building permits for "hypermarkets" that sprung up outside of towns all over France, and for which local government permission was needed.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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