What is the “Business France” issue that Muriel Benecaud fears?

Focus – The labor minister was heard as an assistant witness Tuesday in the investigation into the contract governing the trip of Emmanuel Macron, then a minister, to Las Vegas in 2016. At the time she was the director general of the public body in which the operation arose.

This Tuesday, judges heard Muriel Benecaud as part of the investigation into Emmanuel Macron’s controversial trip to Las Vegas in 2016. At the end of the several-hour hearing, his lawyer announced that she remained under the status of a co-witness. She therefore avoids at this stage an indictment in this investigation of “favoritism and concealment of nepotism” targeting “Business France”, the agency for the promotion of the French economy abroad of which it was director general at the time. The minister left about 2:15 p.m., five hours after arriving at the financial center of the New Court, northwest of Paris.

Le Figaro He returns in detail to this issue that has been hovering like the sword of Damocles over the government for a year.

• Minister Macron in Las Vegas

On January 6, 2016, Emmanuel Macron, Minister of Economy under François Hollande, met with French entrepreneurs at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a large number of technological innovations. The operation was set up by Business France, a Bercy-dependent agency to boost the French economy abroad and of which Muriel Benecaud was managing director.

Almost all of the services could have been entrusted to Havas without going through the bidding. A maneuver in violation of French law. The Penal Code makes it mandatory to call for tenders for the award of public contracts whose value exceeds 25,000 euros. However, the communications agency received 289,019 euros for the operation.

• Opening an investigation on “favoritism and concealment of nepotism”

In March 2017, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office opened a preliminary investigation after receiving a report from the Inspectorate General of Finance (IGF). Investigation, revealed to the public before Chained duckTo the Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Violations. In mid-June, a series of searches were conducted at the headquarters of the Havas Group and Business France. And it led, at the beginning of July, to the opening of a judicial investigation against “X” on charges of “favoritism and concealment of nepotism”. The case was entrusted to three investigative judges, among whom was Renault van Rombeek.

• The embarrassing testimony of Fabian Bute Chesnot

Investigators also heard from Fabien Bothe Chesnot, the former director of communications at Muriel Pinecode. She did not give the same version as her boss at the time and makes it clear that if she was indeed responsible for carrying out the evening in Las Vegas, she had no decision-making authority. Even worse, the former collaborator ensures that as of the end of November 2015, the evening at CES is continuously discussed with Muriel Pénicaud. Heard by the judges on September 21, Fabien Bothe-Chesnot was placed under the status of co-witness.

On the Havas side, the services of the Las Vegas operation are said to fall within the scope of a framework contract covering the period from June 15, 2015 to December 31, 2016 for approximately €6.6 million. The group confirmed in early May that investigators had not heard from any of its leaders.

• Intermediate position for “assisted witness”

Investigators are now seeking to determine whether Muriel Benecode could have been informed in advance of these potential malfunctions, which she has always denied. “I was the one who alerted the board, and I was the one who launched the audit,” the former general manager of Business France insists in July. daily Release She claims, to the contrary, that Muriel Benecaud only informed her board of directors in December 2016, about a year after the Las Vegas event. Furthermore, he would provide a watered down version of the anomalies listed in a report of about sixty pages.

Members of the government may not appear as witnesses unless authorized by the Council of Ministers. A provision that does not apply when they are heard as a co-witness. On May 8, her entourage confirmed the information that the judges would hear her under this mediation situation.

Between the simple witness and the indictment, this status means that there are “indications that make it probable that she participated in the commission of the offenses being considered by the judge”. However, at the moment, justice has no “serious and compatible indications” against him. If at the end of the investigation Muriel Benecaud is charged, the minister has ensured that she will submit her resignation to the Prime Minister.

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