Total, facing charges over the 1999 Erika disaster that fouled French beaches with thousands of tonnes of toxic fuel oil, posted 2006 net profit of 12.59 billion euros ($16.54 billion) on Wednesday, equivalent to $500 a second.

 

'Corporate villain'

 

She singled Total out as the kind  of corporate villain she wanted to stop and criticised the group as "a company (which) after the drama of the Erika is still waiting to compensate the districts that were polluted by this ecological disaster".

 

Royal has been struggling to relaunch a flagging campaign in which she has trailed the right's champion Nicolas Sarkozy in the opinion polls for weeks.

 

"In the France of tomorrow, this should no longer be possible. Public authorities have to be a lot more powerful to organise a fair division of company profits," she said.

   

Total's record profits came in the same week the Erika trial began, adding political pressure to a company already in the line of fire over high oil costs and climate change.

   

Total, the world's fourth largest oil group, is accused of marine pollution, deliberately failing to take measures to prevent the pollution and complicity in endangering human lives after one of France's worst environmental disasters.

   

It rejects the accusations and says it has already paid 200 million euros on the cleanup operation.