France opens tax fraud probe over consultancies in government

French prosecutors said on Wednesday they have opened a probe into suspected tax fraud by management consultancies whose contracts with the government has caused problems for President Emmanuel Macron on the campaign trial.

France opens tax fraud probe over consultancies in government
Photo by Ludovic Marin / AFP

France’s financial crimes prosecutors (PNF) said in a statement they had on March 31st opened a preliminary inquiry into laundering of tax fraud proceeds after the report by the upper house Senate.

The Senate investigation concluded this month that public spending on consultants had more than doubled from 2018-2021, reaching more than a billion euros last year, a record.

The investigation, which condemned the “sprawling phenomenon”, also slammed US-based giant McKinsey for failing to pay corporation tax for the last 10 years despite declaring sales of €329 million in France – which McKinsey denies.

The PNF statement gave no further details and did not name any entity.

The controversy has proved highly unwelcome for Macron, a former investment banker, derided as a president of the rich by left-wingers throughout his time in office.

It has also erupted at a time he is seeking to find momentum for his campaign ahead of the first round of elections Sunday in the face of a challenge from resurgent far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Macron has defended the use of consultants, emphasising that this is standard practice for governments across the world.

He has denied that anything “murky” has been at work and argued that public procurement policies had been strictly followed and additional help had been required during the Covid-19 pandemic when ministries and civil servants were stretched thin

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French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.