French President Macron denies target of probe into campaign use

29
3
French President Macron denies target of probe into campaign use

DIJON: French President Emmanuel Macron has denied being the main target of a judicial investigation into the government's use of management consultants in recent election campaigns.

The French financial crime prosecutor's office said late Thursday it had opened a probe that was thought to be focused on Macron and his 2017 and 2022 presidential campaigns.

"I'm not afraid of anything," the 44 year-old head of state told reporters during a trip to the city of Dijon.

He added, "I believe that your servant is not at the heart of the investigation."

It's normal that the justice system does its job. It will shine a light on this issue if it does it freely. The prosecutor's statement did not name Macron or his election campaign, but said investigators were looking into allegations of favouritism and hidden campaign financing in relation to management consultancies.

The investigation began after the publication of a March Senate report showing government spending on consultants had more than doubled during Macron's first term from 2017 -- 22.

The US-based consultancy firm McKinsey, which was the biggest beneficiary of these contracts, provided staff to Macron's campaign team for free in 2017 according to the favouritism allegation.

I tell you, no, Macron replied when asked about the allegation, adding that he had already explained himself hundreds of times.

The Senate's revelations about spending on consultants - which reached a billion euros US $1.1 billion last year - were seized by Macron's opponents during his campaign for a second term this April.

The scandal, dubbed McKinseygate by the French media, has left many French people shocked by the use of expensive and foreign firms that specialise in strategic advice and IT services.

Macron has defended the recourse to consultants.

When you want to go very quickly and very strongly with a policy, you need to make use of outside contractors, he told reporters in late March.

The investigation is significant because it could be the first to implicate the president.

Several of his allies, including his current chief of staff, are facing legal investigations over a range of charges.

His former bodyguard was convicted of assault and was filmed beating up protesters in 2018 and was later convicted of assault.

Frederic Dabi, director of the polling group Ifop, told AFP that this issue is going completely over the head of French people who are obsessed with economic, energy and social considerations.

He added that it remains to be seen if it will become a slow poison for Macron's camp if there are a series of judicial developments.

France has strict rules on the financing of election campaigns and political parties, which have led to many convictions in recent decades.

In September 2021, Nicolas Sarkozy received a one-year prison sentence for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid.

Judges concluded that Sarkozy spent nearly twice the legal limit on his doomed quest for a second term.

Let's stop thinking that because an investigation has been opened that there's something outrageous, MP Sylvain Maillard, interim leader of Macron's party in parliament, told Europe 1 on Friday.