French mayor and wife on trial for tax fraud after five-year inquiry

A French mayor and his wife have gone on trial accused of aggravated tax fraud after a complex five-year investigation into their estimated €13m (£11.3m) fortune.

Police claim Patrick and Isabelle Balkany used a web of offshore companies, foreign bank accounts, lenders and trustees to conceal their wealth.

The couple, who are members of the centre-right Les Républicains party and friends of the former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, have presided over the chic Parisien suburb of Levallois-Perret for the best part of 35 years.

The 92-page indictment suggested they used “increasingly sophisticated methods” to keep their wealth hidden from the tax authorities. They deny the charges.

Immediately after the trial opened on Monday afternoon, the judge suspended the hearing to consider defence demands that it be postponed. Isabelle Balkany, who was not in court, was said to be too ill to stand trial following a suicide attempt two weeks ago.

The trial is

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