Police search French ministry of justice in probe against minister

French police were searching the ministry of justice on Thursday as part of a conflict of interest probe against the justice minister, a former star defence lawyer, a judicial source said.

Police search French ministry of justice in probe against minister
Justice minister Eric Dupond-Morett is the subject of a conflict of interest investigation. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Eric Dupond-Moretti was named justice minister last summer in a controversial move by President Emmanuel Macron that annoyed some magistrates and prosecutors, who felt the appointment of the flamboyant lawyer to be deeply inappropriate.

The Law Court of the Republic (CJR), the only French authority with the power to try ministers for alleged abuses carried out while in office, opened a probe in January against Dupond-Moretti into conflicts of interest owing to his past job.

The inquiry was opened following complaints filed by three magistrate unions and the Anticor anti-corruption association.

The French weekly Canard Enchaine reported this week that Dupond-Moretti will himself soon be summoned by CJR magistrates to be questioned.

In an unusual move, Prime Minister Jean Castex was himself questioned by the CJR as a witness in the case on June 7th.

At the heart of the accusations is the administrative investigation ordered by Dupond-Moretti in September against three magistrates of the powerful National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF).

They took part in an investigation aimed at identifying the mole who allegedly informed former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog that they were being wiretapped in a corruption case.

Both have since been sentenced in that case to one year in jail, though it is unlikely they will serve any time behind bars.

As a defence lawyer, Dupond-Moretti – an intimidating figure who has likened the courtroom to a theatre – earned the nickname of the “Acquittator”, a reference to the Terminator films, for his track record in getting clients acquitted.

Dupond-Moretti swore as recently as 2018 that he would never be justice minister, saying no one would have the “utterly absurd” idea – “and frankly I would never accept such a thing”.

In 2019, he even starred in his own one-man theatre show called “Eric Dupond-Moretti to the Bar”.

When he was named justice minister in a summer 2020 reshuffle, the head of the USM magistrates union, Celine Parisot, said that appointing a person “who is so divisive and who has such scorn for the judiciary” was tantamount to “a declaration of war”.

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Paris police dismantle crack users’ camp

Paris police have dismantled a camp that is home to over 100 crack users, the latest move in a campaign that has repeatedly displaced the addicts around the capital.

Paris police dismantle crack users' camp

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter as the evacuation got under way that, this time, “1,000 officers will be deployed to prevent the camp from reforming somewhere else”.

An AFP journalist saw large numbers of police surround the rubbish-strewn camp from 7:00 am (0500 GMT) in Square Forceval in northeast Paris, with police chief Laurent Nunez on the scene.

Over the past two years, successive evacuations have moved crack users from the Stalingrad square on the city’s Saint-Martin canal, first to a nearby park, and then to their current site alongside the French capital’s ring road.

READ ALSO How Paris plans to tackle its crack-cocaine problem – by moving addicts elsewhere

Tackling the city’s crack problem — visible on the streets for the past three decades — has proved difficult due to the addictiveness of the drug, a cocaine derivative that sells for as little as 10 euros ($9.90) per dose.

Darmanin, a law-and-order hardliner, has given newly-installed Paris police chief Nunez a single year to wipe out crack in the capital.

The interior ministry said that inhabitants of the camp wanted by police would be arrested, while foreigners without papers would be detained awaiting deportation.

“Other occupants will be directed towards accommodation structures with medical and social assistance, or to medical facilities,” the ministry added.

Aid groups say that between 300 and 400 people spend time in the camp during the day and around 150 at night, with up to 40 percent of them women.

Dealers sold crack “rocks” openly among the groups of users.

As at other sites where the addicts have gathered, local residents have complained of assaults, thefts and other disruption since their arrival.

Around 500 people demonstrated last month to mark the camp being in place for a year and demand its removal.