French prosecutor opens inquiry into Macron minister

The preliminary probe comes 10 days before a parliamentary vote where Macron hopes his new political party Republic On The Move (LREM) will win control of the National Assembly and consolidate his grip on power after his own election on May 7.

But Bayrou's announcement of three new laws, including a constitutional amendment, was partly overshadowed by the launch of a preliminary judicial investigation into a 2011 property deal involving another minister, key Macron ally Richard Ferrand.

Opinion polls so far show he is likely to achieve that aim, and that the affair surrounding Richard Ferrand, now a minister in the Macron government, is not impacting voting intentions.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine and daily Le Monde reported that when Ferrand headed a nonprofit health insurance fund in his native Brittany - where he is an MP - both his ex-wife, Francoise Coustal, and his current partner, Sandrine Doucen, won contracts from the fund and benefitted from lucrative deals.

French President Emmanuel Macron pointed to France's special role in the global community as a country that is fostering ties not only with Russian Federation and the USA, but between them as well, Spokesperson for the French Government Christophe Castaner said today after a ministerial meeting. De Sarnez has said she is suing her accusers for defamation.

The government tried to put a fearless face on the opening of the inquiry, with spokesman Christophe Castaner telling LCI television this was "good news" because the issue would now be handled by magistrates rather than by the press.

The reform was announced by François Bayrou (see photo below), the man recently named by Emmanuel Macron as France's Justice Minister. "I wouldn't do it again", Ferrand said. The Paris prosecutor's office says it has opened an investigation into 19 French members of the European parliament after one of their colleagues, from far-right National Front, claimed they used aides for political activity in France while they were on the parliament's payroll.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday he would not ask Ferrand to step aside unless he was formally charged with an offence.

The leader of the Socialist lawmakers in the outgoing parliament, Olivier Faure, said it would be "preferable" for Ferrand to resign because he doesn't want the political climate be "polluted" by the case.

Ferrand was also revealed last week to have hired his son to act as his parliamentary assistant in 2014 - a practice that, while legal, has created resentment among French voters.

MEPs under investigation include FN boss and rejected presidential candidate Le Pen.

A special court which judges politicians on misconduct in office would be abolished, Bayrou said.

The allegations have the whiff of the sort of scandal which enveloped - and eventually doomed - the presidential bid of conservative Francois Fillon.

The inquiry on him is not because he paid members of his family from public funds, but due to allegations that his wife, in particular, did not do much actual work for the money.

  • Jack Mann