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POLITICS

Bruni threatens to sue over website claims

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France’s former first lady, has hit back at allegations her personal website benefited from €410,000 of taxpayer’s money when her husband was president. Bruni has threatened to sue the creator of a petition that demands she repay the money.

Bruni threatens to sue over website claims
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. File photo: AFP

“Imaginary” and “false” is how Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s lawyer described the allegations that the upkeep of her personal website cost the French taxpayer €410,000 over a period of two years while her husband was president.

The allegations are currently the subject of an online petition calling for the former first lady to reimburse the taxpayer the €410,000. Hosted by the petition site change.org, the site had over 76,000 signatures on Monday morning.

The singer-songwriter who is currently promoting her new album, ‘Little French Songs’, has also threatened to file a complaint against the creator of the petition.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Bruni-Sarkozy’s lawyer Richard Malka, said the site in question, carlabrunisarkozy.org “ceased to exist in May 2012” after Nicolas Sarkozy’s electoral defeat to François Hollande.

Furthermore, he added the site did not benefit from a “single cent” from the public funds designated to the Presidency which was “false information” and “imaginary”.

Malka said Bruni would “take legal action against remarks which harm her honour" by suggesting the website, which bears her name, falsely benefited from this money.

The petition was started last Thursday by Nicolas Bousquet, a Paris-based web developer in reaction to a report published in mid-July from the Court of Auditors, which found that Bruni’s website received a total of €410,000 from the state over two years. The site, it claimed, was financed by the presidential budget at a cost of €330,000 in 2011 and €80,000 in 2012.

On the petition’s website, Bousquet describes the cost as “obscene”, estimating that “the site could have been made by anyone for less than €10,000."

This isn’t the first time Bruni’s finances have come under scrutiny.

Earlier in May, the Prime Minister’s office, known as “Matignon” in France, was questioned about the cost of current French first lady Valérie Trierweiler to the state. It revealed that Trierweiler’s five staff cost the state €19,742, around half of what Carla Bruni’s eight assistants cost the taxpayer, which amounted to €36,448 per month.

The allegations in the petition were only the latest expense scandal to hit the Bruni-Sarkozy clan in recent months.

Earlier this year it emerged that former Bruni-Sarkozy’s husband, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had breached his spending limits during last year’s presidential election campaign. The scandal led to his resignation from France’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to circulate that Nicolas Sarkozy is preparing for a political comeback. Earlier this month, the former President was given a hero's welcome by supporters at crisis talks for his UMP party. Sarkozy, however, denied a comeback, even taking to Twitter to put the rumours to rest.

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ECONOMY

French economy minister ‘worried’ by British ‘disaster’

France's economy minister said Friday that he was worried by the financial turbulence in Britain, criticising Prime Minister Liz Truss's economic policies for causing a "disaster" of high borrowing rates for her country.

French economy minister 'worried' by British 'disaster'

“I’m not worried about the situation in the eurozone,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio when asked about the risk of the crisis spreading. “On the other hand, I am worried about the British situation.”

“What does it show? It shows firstly that there are costs for financial and economic policies,” he said.

Truss’s “mini-budget” announced last Friday included major tax cuts that would need to be financed by extra borrowing, spooking investors who immediately questioned the credibility of the policies and Britain’s financial standing.

“When you take on major costs like that, with spectacular announcements, as some opposition parties want to do in France, it perturbs the markets. It perturbs financial balances,” Le Maire said.

“And it leads to a real disaster with interest rates which are 4.5 percent or even higher in Great Britain. We have interest rates which are reasonable, which are quite close to Germany’s because there is consistency in our economic and financial policymaking,” he said.

“The second thing is that leaving Europe comes with a considerable cost because Europe is a protection,” he added, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pound fell to an all-time low against the dollar and the yield on 10-year British government bonds — which sets the cost of borrowing for the government — briefly rose to above 4.5 percent on Wednesday.

That led the Bank of England to intervene with a £65 billion emergency bond-buying programme to stabilise the market.

Le Maire has been under pressure this week to explain his own budget choices, with the government planning to borrow a record €270 billion next year and a run a deficit of 5.0 percent of GDP.

Some analysts see the deficit as likely to be higher because of Le Maire’s optimistic growth forecast for the economy and assumptions about savings from a controversial pensions reform that has not been passed by parliament.

French-British relations have been rocky for years, particularly under former prime minister Boris Johnson, with a host of issues souring ties from Brexit and fishing rights to migrants.

French ministers had been reluctant to comment on Truss since she came to power despite deep concerns about her Brexit policies and her statement while campaigning that she did not know if French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe.”

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