French prosecutors probe alleged illegal election financing

Nov 23, 2022, 8:15 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2022, 10:28 am

PARIS (AP) — French national financial prosecutors said Thursday they have opened an investigation into suspected illegal financing of electoral campaigns in 2017 and 2022. A leading French newspaper reported that the probe targets President Emmanuel Macron’s winning election bids.

Prosecutors said in a written statement they wanted to bring clarifications following press reports, in an apparent reference to newspaper Le Parisien reporting earlier in the day on an alleged investigation regarding Macron’s 2017 campaign and its links to U.S. consulting company McKinsey & Company.

The prosecutors’ statement, without citing Macron or his party, said a judicial inquiry was opened Oct. 20 about alleged “inconsistent campaign accounts” and “reduction of accounting items” in relation with consulting companies operating during electoral campaigns of 2017 and 2022.

The next day, another investigation was opened over alleged favoritism in relation to those campaigns, it said.

Campaign financing in France is strictly regulated.

Le Parisien, citing anonymous sources, said magistrates are focusing on conditions under which some major contracts between McKinsey and the state were concluded after Macron’s election.

An official with the French presidency said the Elysee Palace “has been made aware of the communication from the financial prosecutor’s office concerning the opening of two judicial inquiries. … It is up to the justice system to lead investigations in all independence.” The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy.

McKinsey representatives in France would not comment on the investigation.

The investigation follows another one opened in March this year by French financial prosecutors into suspected tax fraud by McKinsey. The company said at the time that it “respects French tax rules that apply to it.”

That investigation was opened two weeks after a report by the French Senate said McKinsey had not paid corporate profit taxes in the country since at least 2011. The report also questioned the government’s use of private consultants.

Macron at the time said he was “shocked” by the suspicions of tax evasion on the part of consulting firms.

The so-called “McKinsey Affair” prompted criticism from Macron’s rivals ahead of France’s presidential election that led to his winning a second term in April.

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French prosecutors probe alleged illegal election financing