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Oil Executive Accuses Mitterrand

June 17, 2001

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PARIS (AP) _ A former oil executive convicted in a corruption scandal said on Sunday that former French president Francois Mitterand knew about his company’s unlawful dealings.

Loik Le Floch-Prigent, head of the former state-owned oil giant Elf Aquitaine from 1989 to 1993, said Mitterrand knew the company padded its payroll and paid bribes.

According to Le Floch-Prigent, Elf’s 1992 purchase of the Leuna oil refinery in communist East Germany was ``a political decision″ emanating from the presidential palace intended to help then-German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

``We must help our friend Kohl,″ Le Floch-Prigent quoted Mitterrand as saying at the time. French and German investigators are investigating whether bribes were paid in the sale.

``Sometimes, we even paid for Air France tickets, and this was with the full knowledge and approval of the president of the Republic,″ he said. ``Francois Mitterrand knew everything.″

Le Floch-Prigent was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail in May. He was convicted of misusing Elf company funds, but is currently free pending appeal.

``If I am guilty, it’s for having served my country in the manner in which the country wanted me to serve it,″ he told Europe-1 radio.

Elf Aquitaine was taken over last year by the French-Belgian group TotalFina.

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