PARIS, April 10 French tycoon and politician
Serge Dassault was placed under formal investigation on Thursday
over his alleged role in a vote-rigging scandal in the Paris
suburb where he formerly served as the centre-right mayor for 14
Dassault is the head of family-owned Groupe Dassault
Holding, which controls assets ranging from aeronautics group
Dassault Aviation to the right-leaning Le Figaro
newspaper, as well as stakes in several major defence firms.
An investigating magistrate in Paris placed the 88-year-old,
also a senator for the centre-right UMP party, under formal
investigation over suspicions he played a role in vote-rigging,
corruption, money-laundering and misuse of public funds from
2008 to 2010 in the suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes where he served
as mayor from 1995 to 2009.
Dassault was not placed under judicial surveillance and was
free to continue running his operations.
Paris prosecutors opened an initial inquiry in March to
follow up on findings from a 2010 investigation following the
discovery of 2 million euros ($2.75 million) in suspicious money
transfers made while Dassault was mayor.
Dassault "strongly denies the opening of this investigation
which is not based on any serious evidence," his lawyer, Pierre
Haik, said in a statement.
Haik added that the investigation was being conducted solely
based on the testimony of individuals against whom Dassault has
pressed charges for telephone harassment and attempts to extort
funds from him.
Dassault lost his parliamentary immunity in February, paving
the way for the investigation.
Under French law, being placed under formal investigation
means there exists "serious or consistent evidence" pointing to
probable implication of a suspect in a crime. It can lead to a
trial but does not always.
($1 = 0.7272 euros)
(Reporting By Gerard Bon; Writing by Alexandria Sage and
Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Hugh Lawson)