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French opposition leader tied to money scandal

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French opposition leader tied to money scandal
French conservative party leader Jean-François Copé faces questions over spending irregularities. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP
16:13 CET+01:00
The head of France's opposition party was pushing back hard on Thursday against charges of financial irregularities regarding €8 million in party spending during the 2012 election.

A report from French magazine Le Point alleges two former underlings of conservative UMP party leader Jean-François Copé, grossly overcharged the party for setting up rallies and other services.

It raises questions over whether Copé steered over €8 million in communications contracts to the close associates and their agency Event & Cie during former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed bid to hold onto the presidency in 2012.

Copé then turned around and raised €11 million from faithful conservative supporters to replenish the party’s depleted coffers.

On Thursday Copé promised to file a defamation lawsuit against the magazine and the two reporters who penned the exposé.

“It’s appalling,” Copé told i-Télé Thursday. “It’s a total set up of the most ignoble sort. There is only one way to respond, and it’s in the court.”

The agency at the center of the controversy allegedly double charged the party for services like catering, video projection or lighting at certain events it organized. Le Point says experts it spoke to believed the bills presented to the UMP were about 20 over standard rates.

The agency’s parent company Bygmalion was founded in 2008 by two former Copé aides. One, Bastien Millot, was Copé's chief of staff while serving as mayor in the Parisian suburb of Meaux. The second is Guy Alves also a former chief of staff, though he worked for Copé when he was Finance Minister.

Le Point notes that the upstart communication agency embarked on a period of lightening growth after its founding. Between 2010 and 2012 it had €4.5 million in the bank will the UMP was €40 million in debt.

The article also raised questions about a third person behind Bygmalion who has also allegedly benefited from ties to Copé. The man, Emmanuel Limido, apparently served as the intermediary for a sale of some prime French government real estate.  

Copé was recently at the heart of another scandal, though that one was more closely tied to the conservative values of his party. During an interview earlier this month he railed against a children's book that sought to help kids overcome the stigma of accepting their bodies. 

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