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Former French Interior Minister jailed for unpaid debts to the state

Claude Guéant was originally sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay considerable damages in 2017 but has been unable to keep up with the payments due

Claude Guéant has been incarcerated for failure to repay his debts Pic: Zolnierek / Shutterstock

France’s former Interior Minister Claude Guéant has been jailed for nine months for failing to pay debts to the Trésor public national treasury. 

The 76-year-old former minister, who served in the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, has been incarcerated in Paris’ Prison de la Santé. 

This comes as a result of his failure to pay the money he owed to the state following his involvement in the “primes de cabinet” affair in the early 2000s, during which Mr Guéant and other Cabinet members took funds destined for police investigations and used them to award cash bonuses to himself and his staff.

Mr Guéant was sentenced in 2017 to two years in prison – one suspended – for complicity in the embezzlement of public funds, and fined €75,000.

In France, prison sentences of less than two years can normally be served outside of prison if the individual is kept under surveillance through the use of an electronic tag, so thus far Mr Guéant has not had to serve any of his sentence in jail.

He was also ordered to repay €210,000 to the state in damages and interest.

The ex-minister was unable to repay his debts quickly enough with his pension of €5,500. “Of this sum, €3,000 are being paid to the national treasury each month,” Mr Guéant’s lawyer Philippe El Ghozi told LCI

“It was believed that he should be paying more, but he didn’t have any more. Because he did not pay any more, they decided that he must execute part of his sentence in prison.

“This is a very heavy decision,” said Me El Ghozi. “Claude Guéant will soon be 77 years old: he is in a situation which is to be expected of a man of his age, with very serious health problems which will be examined by the doctors at the prison today and tomorrow.”

Mr Guéant is incarcerated in the vulnerable prisoners’ unit due to his health, and Me El Ghozi has said that he will request that the judge reconsider his sentence.

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