Jacques Chirac’s corruption trial has been suspended due to a legal challenge.

A lawyer for one of nine co-defendants had argued to a Paris court that it was unconstitutional to merge two cases arising from the former French president’s tenure as mayor of Paris.

The judge, Dominique Pauthe, called for the court to reconvene on June 20.

Chirac is accused of creating fictitious jobs during his time as Paris mayor between 1977 and 1995, enabling him to channel thousands in bogus salaries into his RPR political party. He denies the allegations.

Chirac is the first French ex-head of state to face a criminal trial since wartime leader Field Marshal Philippe Petain was convicted of treason.

In the first of the two cases, brought by Paris investigators, he is charged with embezzlement and breach of trust over the employment of 21 so-called ‘ghost’ jobs.

The second came about from a separate investigation in the Paris suburb of Nanterre and involved the charge of illegal conflict of interest relating to seven ghost jobs.

A lawyer representing co-defendant Remy Chardon, Chirac’s former Paris chief of staff, complained that the two cases had been brought together because the statute of limitations had run out on the first Paris case.

The judge ruled that his complaint would have to be considered by France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation. That court will then have to decide whether to refer the case to France’s Constitutional Council.

The ruling gives Chirac an opportunity to escape the justice system, says anti-corruption group Anticor.

But Chardon’s lawyer, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, insisted the former president had nothing to do with the decision to seek a postponement to the case.

Georges Kiejman, a lawyer representing Chirac, said his client’s legal team should take “neither the credit nor the blame” for it.

Chirac was not in court for the first two days of the trial but had been expected to appear on Wednesday.

“Jacques Chirac does not want this. Jacques Chirac will be disappointed not to be able to explain himself tomorrow,” Mr Kiejman said.