Inquiry launched in France over ‘clandestine’ Covid-defying dinners for the elite

A report by a French television channel alleging "clandestine" luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic has sparked an investigation and a political furore over the claims the elite were brazenly ignoring rules they themselves had set.

Inquiry launched in France over 'clandestine' Covid-defying dinners for the elite
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said those involved in such dinners should be prosecuted if the allegations in the report were true. Photo: Christophe Petit-Tesson / POOL / AFP

The M6 private channel on Friday broadcast a reportage based on footage recorded with a hidden camera purportedly from a clandestine restaurant in a high-end area of Paris where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing masks.

All restaurants and cafes remain closed in France for eating in and the country this week began a new limited nationwide lockdown to deal with surging Covid-19 infections.

The hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want the Names) went viral on Twitter, as speculation swirled over who may have attended such dinners.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said Sunday that a criminal probe had been opened after the reportage into putting the lives of others at risk.

The investigation would assess “if these evenings were organised in defiance of health rules and to determine who were the possible organisers and participants.”

One source interviewed by M6, whose identity was not revealed and whose voice was distorted, told the channel that such evenings had taken place and guests present had even included ministers.

READ ALSO: France to ban outdoor drinking under new virus restrictions

The source was later identified by media and bloggers as Pierre-Jean Chalençon, who runs the luxury Palais Vivienne event venue in the centre of Paris.

In statement sent to AFP through his lawyer late Sunday, Chalençon implicitly acknowledged he was the source but also appeared to retract the claim ministers were involved, saying he was only showing “humour” and the “sense of the absurd”.

But the report was no laughing matter for members of the government, days after President Emmanuel Macron ordered new restrictions including a brief closure of schools to keep cases down before the effects of the vaccine drive kick in.

READ ALSO: France closes schools for 3 weeks and extends partial lockdown across whole country

Chalençon had been recorded saying in February that government spokesman Gabriel Attal, a rising cabinet star, would be attending such a dinner. Attal vehemently denied the claim.

But deputy interior minister Marlene Schiappa told French TV that if ministers or lawmakers were involved “they should be fined and penalised like any other citizen”.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted: “All the ministers, without exception, respect the rules.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said those involved in such dinners should be prosecuted if the allegations in the report were true.

“There are not two types of citizens — those who have the right to party and those who do not,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Ahhhhh….. now I know I have been wrong all that time thinking masks are useless! Macron wears one all the time…….. how did he get covid I wonder…….?

  2. With all that is happening in France and the world, is this all these people have to worry about, bloody dinner parties. What about the proposal to legalise assisted dying for people with incurable diseases which has been blocked in the French parliament, largely by five opposition party MPs? I would have thought that this is more relevant to peoples lives then a few dinner parties.

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Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Twitter's new boss Elon Musk on Thursday, saying the entrepreneur was wrong to drop the fight against Covid disinformation as he slashes back content moderation on the platform.

Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

With his country facing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, Macron said the subject of misleading Covid information should be addressed head on, not swept under the rug.

“I think this is a big issue,” Macron, on a state visit to the United States, told broadcaster ABC. “What I push very much, for one, is exactly the opposite: more regulation.”

He said such protections have been implemented and enforced in France and “at the European level.”

Freedom of expression remains paramount, Macron insisted, “but there is responsibilities and limits” to what can be written and disseminated.

“You cannot go into the streets and have a racist speech or anti-Semitic speech,” the French leader said. “You cannot put at risk the life of somebody else. Violence is never legitimate in democracy.”

Macron’s concept of freedom of expression within acceptable limits is far from the libertarian approach of Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist” who has sacked many of the Twitter employees tasked with content moderation.

Musk has begun to allow Twitter users banned from the platform for posting disinformation, such as former US president Donald Trump, to return.

And it emerged this week that Twitter has stopped enforcing a rule preventing users from sharing misleading information about Covid-19 and vaccine effectiveness.

The billionaire Musk has made no secret of his fierce opposition to health restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic, especially when they meant the temporary shuttering of his Tesla electric vehicle factory in California.

“To say that they can not leave their house and they will be arrested if they do… this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” Musk raged in April 2020 on a conference call with analysts.

On Wednesday the European Union issued a sharp warning to Musk, saying he must do “significantly” more to fight disinformation, such as reinforcement of content moderation, in order to comply with EU law.

“There is still huge work ahead” for Twitter, said Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market.