Probe into tender irregularities in Macron’s visit to Las Vegas
The Paris prosecution office on Tuesday launched an investigation into allegations of irregular outsourcing to a French company, Havas, by presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. Several officials within the Macron's ministry reportedly formerly worked at Havas.
Published: March 15, 2017, 9:45 am
The irregularites are linked to a trip French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron made last year, dating back to January 2016. Addressing the allegations last week, the 39-year-old candidate with no party, said: “I had no knowledge of it at the time, but I cannot imagine that my ministry would organise an event without a tender.”
The then-French economy ministry was the main speaker at a high-profile event organised by his ministry as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, but according to a judicial source, the unit within the French economy ministry that organised the event outsourced support without a issuing a public tender, fuelling allegations of fraud.
“My ministry, when I was a minister, always respected the rules of tenders and public contracts,” assured the candidate. He later said that “individual officials” were involved in favouritism, but it did not concern him personally.
According to French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné which broke the story, French public relations giant Havas was chosen to organise the event after the economy ministry reportedly sought no other bids from other companies.
The report also revealed the event cost a total of nearly 400,000 euros, of which at least 100,000 was spent on hotel expenses alone.
An aide to presidential candidate denied Macron’s involvement and told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the investigation would not focus Macron, but on the promotional unit within the ministry tasked with organising the event, Business France, as well as Havas.
“It’s in no way a story about Macron,” the aide said. Macron has denied any wrongdoing.
Business France appeared to recognize its responsibility in the legally dubious matter. In a statement, the governmental promotions team said: “Burdened by delays, it appears that the procedure for choosing a provider capable of heading the organisation of the US event, as well as the relevant communications, (…) was affected by irregularities.”
News of the allegations came the same day that the prosecution office announced that it was placing Francois Fillon, Macron’s election rival, under formal investigation over the fake jobs scandal.
The prosecutor’s office on Tuesday announced that Fillon had been placed under formal investigation over allegations that he diverted public funds. In January Fillon promised that he would step down if charged.
Fillon declared on France2 in an interview that “there is only one thing that would stop me being a candidate: if my honor was called into question, if I was charged.”
He has now been formally accused of hiring his wife and two children in publicly-funded jobs that they allegedly never performed. Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid some 830 000 euros over 15 years for pretending to work as his parliamentary assistant.
Le Parisien newspaper also reported fresh allegations on Tuesday that both his children turned over a large part of their parliamentary income to their parents. A lawyer for Fillon’s daughter Marie said her parents were reimbursed for her wedding.
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