Former Commissioner Edith Cresson will keep her full EU pension rights and other benefits d espite being guilty of cronyism at the taxpayer's e xpense, a court ruled yesterday.
European judges in Luxembourg rejected a recommendation to strip Mrs Cresson of half her pension as punishment for appointing her own dentist to a well-paid euro-job for which he was not qualified.
Revelations about the appointment triggered the sensational resignation of the entire European Commission t eam under President Jacques Santer in 1999.
Now the judges have ruled that the former French prime minister breached her legal obligations as a top eurocrat - but decided that the guilty verdict was penalty enough.
Ms Cresson was the first EU Commissioner to come under formal investigation for possible criminal offences connected with her time in office.
Her troubles began when she insisted on employing her 66-year-old dentist, Rene Berthelot, as her "personal adviser" between 1995 and 1997. During that time he was paid more than £100,000.
Mr Berthelot, who came from Mrs Cresson's home town, stayed four months longer than the 24-month limit on the employment of "visiting scientists".
Criminal proceedings by the Belgian authorities, based on allegations that Ms Cresson authorised forged reports of Commission work said to have been done by the dentist, were dropped in June 2004 for lack of sufficient evidence.
Yesterday the judges ruled that Mrs Cresson had acted in breach of her obligations as a European Commissioner, but added: "The Court holds that the finding of that breach constitutes, in itself, an appropriate penalty."