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Police probe ex-PM Villepin over fraud allegations

Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin (pictured) was questioned by Paris police on Tuesday as part of an investigation into an alleged embezzlement scheme at a luxury hotel chain previously run by one of his close friends.

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Former French prime minister Dominque de Villepin was brought in for questioning Tuesday by police investigating luxury hotel chain Relais et Châteaux, whose former CEO is accused of involvement in an embezzlement scheme.

Régis Bulot, who headed the company between 1987 and 2005, was taken into custody last November after prosecutors accused him of organised fraud and money laundering. The 64-year-old is suspected of having embezzled some 1.6 million euros between 2002 and 2008. He was released from prison in June this year after seven months in custody.

According to investigators, Villepin made a phone call in 2011 on behalf of Bulot concerning a civil law suit. The politician, who served as prime minister under Jacques Chirac and is known as a bitter rival of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, is described by the French press as a “close friend” of Bulot.

Bulot, who has acknowledged the embezzlement scheme but denies having orchestrated it, claims that Villepin benefited in no way from the alleged fraud. Villepin, who holidayed with his wife at a Relâis and Chateaux resort in Martinique in the summer of 2005, has denied all knowledge of the scheme.

According to a source who spoke to the AFP news agency, Villepin’s interrogation was a pre-arranged formality.

Villepin issued a brief statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying that he had told the investigators that "I am in no way implicated in this sad affair that is affecting one of my friends".

Prosecutor Brice Raymondeau-Castanet told AFP it was "probable" that a judge leading the probe would want to question Villepin at a later date.

France 24 with wires

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