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Public Prosecutor Recommends Dropping (Jean) Sarkozy Charges

The mysterious if somewhat exhausting case of the hit-and-run scooter and the role of the French president's son, Jean Sarkozy, could be nearing its conclusion.

A Paris prosecutor has recommended dropping charges against him, but a final decision won't be handed down until September.

The incident dates back to October 2005, when Mohammed Bellouti claimed that a scooter ran into the back of his BMW in the centre of Paris, damaging his rear bumper and driving away without stopping.

Bellouti apparently had the presence of mind to note down the licence number and reported it to the police. But when 10 months later they still hadn't traced the owner, Bellouti's insurance company took matters in hand and discovered the scooter belonged to Jean Sarkozy.

When he failed to respond to several of their letters, Bellouti took the case to court seeking�260 to cover the cost of the repairs and �4,000 in damages for the delay in settling his claim.

He maintained that Sarkozy had received preferential treatment and that the justice system and the police had been lenient in following up the case. At the time Sarkozy's father, Nicolas, was minister of the interior.

Appearing before the public prosecutor on Wednesday, the president's second son pleaded his innocence, although he could offer no explanation as to how Bellouti had been able to take the registration details of his scooter.

"I have never been involved in any sort of road traffic incident of any kind, " he said.

"If I had been the cause of an accident of course I would have stopped because that's my nature.

"I was insured and would have had no reason not to stop."

In good legalese speak, an independent expert called in for analysis concluded that the damage caused was "incompatible" with any impact there could have been between the car and a scooter similar to the one owned by Sarkozy.

Lawyers for the defendant maintained that the incident had never happened and Bellouti was trying to get insurance coverage for other accidents.

The story isn't quite over yet in spite of the prosecutor's recommendation. Judges will give a final ruling on the case at the end of September.

Ah yes the wheels of justice can grind very slowly at the best of times here in France but in this case they seemed to have moved at an almost pedestrian pace, at least certainly as far as Bellouti is concerned.

In case you thought there was nothing else to be revealed about the scooter - think again. It seems to have something of life all of its own.

After allegedly being involved in the 2005 incident, it was back in the news last year when it was stolen.

Police launched a detailed investigation - including using DNA tests - and within 10 days they had tracked down the thief. By this time of course, Sarkozy's father was president.

The 21-year-old Sarkozy is the second son from the French president's first marriage and has already carved out something of a name for himself in local politics.

He won a seat on the regional council of Haut-de-Seine in March and earlier this month was elected president of the centre-right grouping of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party - Nouveau Centre in the same regional council.

Submitted by:

Johnny Summerton

Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com


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