France’s Macron faces possible legal woes over election consultants

French President Emmanuel Macron faces possible legal problems after prosecutors announced Thursday they were investigating the use of management consulting firms during national elections in 2017 and 2022.

France's Macron faces possible legal woes over election consultants
(Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Although a statement from the National Financial Prosecutors’ Office did not name Macron’s campaign specifically, his election team is thought to be
the main target of two separate probes.

The use of consultants came under the spotlight in March following an investigation by the French Senate, which concluded that public spending on
them had more than doubled from 2018-2021 during Macron’s first term in office.

Total outlays reached more than a €1 billion  last year, a figure frequently cited by Macron’s opponents during his successful bid for a second term this April.

Investigative news website Mediapart has reported that consultants from the US-based McKinsey group worked for free on Macron’s campaign in 2017.

His office said, “it was up the justice system to complete these investigations in full independence”.

READ ALSO What is the ‘Affaire McKinsey’ and could it derail Macron’s re-election campaign?

The prosecutors’ office said that two probes had been underway since October into the use of consultants during the 2017 and 2022 elections.

They would look into charges relating to possible false election campaign accounting and underestimating campaign spending, as well as possible favouritism and conspiracy in favouritism.

France has strict rules on campaign financing that place limits on what a candidate is allowed to use.

For the 2022 presidential election, each candidate had a maximum of €16.8 million for the first round and €22.5 million for the second.

Several French politicians have been convicted over the years for overspending or attempting to disguise campaign spending, including late former president Jacques Chirac.

Fellow rightwing ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy received a one-year prison sentence in September last year for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election
bid. Judges concluded that Sarkozy had spent nearly twice the legal limit on his failed bid for a second term.

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UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

UK police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of playing a "key role" in the deaths of at least 27 people who drowned attempting to cross the Channel in a dinghy last November.

UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said 32-year-old Harem Ahmed Abwbaker was arrested at an address near Cheltenham, southwest England.

He is suspected of being “a member of the organised crime group who conspired to transport the migrants to the UK in a small boat”.

NCA investigators are working with the French authorities to track down those responsible for the tragedy.

French prosecutors have so far charged 10 people for their alleged role in the disaster on November 24 last year.

It was the worst accident in the Channel since the narrow strait became a key route for people from Africa, the Middle East and Asia attempting to reach England from France.

The vessel sank after leaving the French coast, leading to the death of all but two of those aboard. Four people remain missing.

The suspect will appear before London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday, where extradition proceedings to France will commence.

READ ALSO What is France doing to prevent small-boat crossings of the Channel?

Charges faced there include the French equivalent of manslaughter and facilitating illegal immigration.

“This is a significant arrest and comes as part of extensive inquiries into the events leading to these tragic deaths in the Channel,” said NCA deputy director Craig Turner.

“The individual detained today is suspected of having played a key role in the manslaughter of those who died.

“Working closely with our French partners we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those whose lives were lost,” he added.

Among the 27 – aged seven to 47 – were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese.

Tributes and demonstrations took place on Thursday for the 27 victims of the tragedy that France’s interior minister admitted should have been prevented.

Several boats packed with rescuers and local elected figures took to sea off the coast of Dunkirk to mark the anniversary.

“It’s a tragedy that we were expecting and there will probably be others,” said the head of the local branch of the SNSM lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel.