French Justice Minister charged with conflict of interest

French Justice Minister charged with conflict of interest

The top official in Emmanuel Macron's office has been charged with a conflict of interest.

The Justice Minister, ric Dupond-Moretti, was ordered to stand trial in a separate case, a case against Alexis Kohler, who holds one of France's most powerful jobs as lys e secretary general.

Kohler is accused of having links with Italian-Swiss shipping firm Mediterranean Shipping Company MSC, which is run by his mother's cousins, prosecutor Jean-Fran ois Bohnert said in a statement.

On Monday, Kohler denied any wrongdoing his lawyer said, while an official in Macron s office said Kohler remained in his post.

In 2018, Anticor, an anti-corruption NGO, filed a legal complaint against Kohler for illegal influence-peddling regarding contracts awarded to MSC in 2010 and 2011.

Kohler has allegedly failed to reveal his family connections with MSC to the French agency for public investment where he worked at the time. The case was dismissed the following year, but Anticor filed a civil case in 2020, which usually triggers an investigation by a magistrate.

Kohler, whose office is next to the President's office, is often described as Macron's right-hand man. His job involves dealing with emergencies, major economic and social issues, as well as some political decisions.

His lawyer Eric Dezeuze said that the discovery of evidence linked to the charges would allow Kohler to prove his innocence. Dupond-Moretti was ordered Monday to stand trial, charged with misusing his position to settle scores with opponents from his legal career. The former French justice minister is the first sitting French justice minister to be charged with a criminal offense.

The accusations relate to administrative inquiries ordered into three judges during Dupond-Moretti's time as minister, which was denounced by critics as a witch hunt.

In 2014, the three judges ordered police to pore through the phone records of dozens of lawyers and magistrates, including Dupond-Moretti, as part of an investigation into former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The order to stand trial was issued by the investigation commission of the law court of the republic in Paris, which hears cases of alleged wrongdoing by serving ministers.

His lawyers, Remi Lorrain and Christophe Ingrain, said they had already appealed, sparking a temporary suspension of the move. Lorrain said France's highest appeals court would pursue the matter.

The appeals court will not rule on the matter, according to a source close to the case. Lorrain said there had been many irregularities in the case, and the chief prosecutor, Fran ois Molins, had been unfair and biased. The case against Dupond-Moretti goes back to January 2021, when Anticor and a magistrates union filed a lawsuit accusing him of using his ministerial powers to take revenge on his enemies in the judiciary. He was charged the following July.

Despite opposition calls for him to be sacked, Macron reappointed him as justice minister in a cabinet reshuffle earlier this year.

The accusations put Dupond-Moretti in an unprecedented position, according to France's two main magistrates unions. They said there could be a conflict of interest when Dupond-Moretti, the justice minister, picks a successor to Molins, who will retire in June.

He would have to appoint his own accuser, the unions said.

The office of the prime minister, lisabeth Borne, declined to say whether Dupond-Moretti's job was at risk, even though he was contacted by AFP.

A spokesman for the prime minister stated that the procedure was ongoing and was organised so as not to affect Dupond-Moretti's business as justice minister.