De Villepin, left, is accused of complicity to slander Sarkozy, right, his political rival [EPA]

February 2001: Journalist Denis Robert publishes an article entitled Revelation$, in which he alleges that Clearstream, a financial clearing house based in Luxembourg, serves as a platform for money-laundering.

May 2004: Renaud Van Ruymbeke, an investigating judge, receives a CD listing politicians who allegedly received kickbacks on a $2.8bn sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.

Among them is Nicolas Sarkozy, the then finance minister, who later became president.

September 2004: A defamation inquiry is launched following legal action by Philippe Delmas, a former Airbus executive, whose name was on the list.

December 2005: Van Ruymbeke concludes that the Clearstream list of account holders was fabricated.

April 2006: Le Monde newspaper reports that General Philippe Rondot, a former intelligence chief, told judges that Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, had in January told him to investigate Sarkozy's links to Clearstream on the orders of Jacques Chirac, the former president. De Villepin and Chirac deny the claims.

May 2006: Le Monde publishes excerpts of hand-written notes kept by Rondot that suggest de Villepin's direct involvement in the probe of Sarkozy. The notes suggest Chirac and de Villepin are aware of the political dangers.

June to December 2006: Jean-Louis Gergorin, a former vice president of the EADS aerospace company, is charged with slander, falsifying documents and use of fake documents. EADS researcher Imad Lahoud faces the same charges.

Management accountant Florian Bourges, who allegedly stole the list, is charged with breach of trust. Journalist Robert is charged with dealing in stolen property and breach of trust.

July 2007: De Villepin is charged with complicity to slander, dealing in stolen property, complicity in the use of falsified documents and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing but is ordered to stand trial in 2008.

November 2008: Villepin, Gergorin, Lahoud, Robert and Bourges are ordered to stand trial.

September 2009: Trial opens in Paris court.

October 2009: Trial closes with judges annoucing they will hand down verdict on January 28, 2010.

Source: Agencies