City hall searched in ‘embezzlement and bullying’ inquiry into Macron ally

Edouard Philippe
Edouard Philippe has made no secret of his ambitions for the French presidency - LOU BENOIST/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
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Police have conducted searches in a French city hall in an investigation targeting Edouard Philippe, a former prime minister and close ally of Emmanuel Macron.

An inquiry into Mr Philippe, now the mayor of the port city of Le Havre in Normandy, and two other officials in the city was opened in December 2023, a judicial source told AFP.

The source, who asked not to be named, said the investigation involved suspicions of influence peddling, favouritism, embezzlement of public funds, and workplace bullying.

Mr Philippe, who served as premier from 2017 to 2020, is a close ally of Mr Macron. He runs a centrist movement, Horizons, that is allied to the president’s ruling party.

He is currently seen as the pro-Macron figure who is most likely to stand for the presidency in 2027, as the incumbent leader cannot run for a third consecutive term.

Complaint centres on city’s digital hub

Mr Philippe has made little effort to hide his ambitions for the presidency, and some analysts are already predicting the most likely scenario for 2027 is a duel between him and far-Right leader Marine Le Pen.

The policy inquiry was opened after a complaint that was lodged in 2023 relating to the setting up of a digital hub in the city, known as the Cite Numerique du Havre.

Mr Philippe confirmed to the BFM Normandie TV channel that searches had taken place, and added: “We are at the disposal of the magistrates and we will respond to all the questions to show in good faith that we have respected all the rules.”

According to Le Monde, which first reported on the probe, the plaintiff is a former senior official with the local authority whose contract was not renewed by Mr Philippe in April 2023.

Christelle Mazza, a lawyer for the plaintiff, welcomed the searches.

“This is very encouraging for the status of whistleblower and for all public officials who, in the exercise of their functions, including at the highest level, witness facts likely to constitute offences,” she said.

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