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Alibi Witness Arrested After Son Says Story Was Faked

March 18, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ Police on Saturday arrested and questioned a member of Parliament whose son admitted his father faked an alibi for embattled leftist politician Bernard Tapie in a soccer bribery trial.

The development could be a fatal blow in the case against Tapie, whose political career and potential influence in next month’s presidential election hang in the balance.

Jacques Mellick, the Socialist mayor of the northern city of Bethune, had claimed he was in Paris on June 17, 1993, for a meeting with Tapie at the same time Tapie, who owns the Olympique Marseille soccer team, is accused of offering a bribe to a rival coach to fix a game.

Mellick’s son, also named Jacques, said his father went to Paris that day but was unable to meet Tapie. Mellick’s schedule ``was too tight,″ according to the statement that his son said he drafted with his father.

He said his father, who instead met Tapie on June 18, provided the alibi to help save the financially and legally embattled Tapie, who had a company in Bethune that employed 300 people.

Tapie said Saturday the timing of the meeting was always in doubt and that the latest statements ``do not clear up the whereabouts″ of Valenciennes soccer coach Boro Primorac, who contends Tapie tried to buy him off.

On Friday, ex-Mellick aide Corinne Krajewski admitted to judges at the bribery trial that she and Mellick did not travel to Paris on that day. The trip had long been questioned because of the timing between Mellick’s meetings in Bethune and Paris.

Tapie, 51, a rags-to-riches politician who appeals to younger voters and has considered running for president, has long accused his political rivals of trying to destroy him.

Tapie was declared bankrupt in December. If he loses his appeal, he will be barred from holding political office for five years, forcing him to abandon his seat in the National Assembly and his plans to run for Marseille mayor.

Losing the case could also affect Socialist presidential candidate Lionel Jospin, who needs his support against the leading conservative candidates _ Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac and Premier Edouard Balladur.

The scandal broke when a Valenciennes player blew the whistle on a match-fixing plot by Tapie’s team, Olympique Marseille, in May 1993. Three Valenciennes players acknowledged they received the equivalent of about $50,000 each to throw a French League match against Marseille.

OM, the strongest team in France at the time, reportedly wanted Valenciennes to go easy. It won European Champions Cup match against AC Milan the following week, but the scandal stripped OM of the title and the team was demoted to the less prestigious second division this season.

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