The speaker of France’s National Assembly has been charged with financial misconduct in a blow to Emmanuel Macron, the president.
Richard Ferrand, a close ally of Mr Macron, is alleged to have helped his former partner profit improperly from a property deal in 2011, when he was head of a large public health company. The charges against Mr Ferrand, 57, who denies any wrongdoing, could bring renewed scrutiny to Mr Macron’s promise to clean up French politics.
Another of the president’s allies, Sylvie Goulard, nominated as the EU’s internal market commissioner, is under investigation by the EU anti-fraud office over allegations that she misused EU funds to pay her parliamentary assistant. The French government maintains that she was cleared after repaying €45,000 (£40,345) for a salary wrongly paid to her assistant when she was an MEP.
Mr Ferrand maintains that he had no say over a decision by the company he formerly headed, Mutuelles de Bretagne, to rent a property owned by Sandrine Doucen, his former girlfriend. He said he would not resign as speaker, the fourth most powerful position in French politics. Mr Macron said he still had “all my confidence”.
The allegations against Mr Ferrand first surfaced in 2017, forcing him to resign as a government minister. Misconduct charges were then shelved after a court ruled that there were no grounds for prosecution, and he took the post of president, or speaker, of the lower house of the French parliament.
Prosecutors announced on Thursday, however, that they were proceeding with the case and placed Mr Ferrand under formal investigation, a stage in the French legal system equivalent to being charged, although many investigations are dropped before going to court.
The revival of the allegations comes at a delicate time for Mr Macron as he embarks on potentially explosive pension reforms after months of “yellow-vest” anti-government protests.
Paris transport workers are to strike on Friday over the reforms, which will make many people retire later. Currently, employees of the Paris Public Transport Authority can retire at 55 on an average annual pension of €44,460 (£39,860).
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