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investigating judges investigate the role of consulting firms

The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Thursday the opening of two judicial inquiries in October for “non-compliant keeping of campaign accounts” and “favoritism and concealment of favoritism” on the part of consulting firms on the two electoral campaigns in 2017 and 2022.

Relations between Emmanuel Macron and consulting firms in the sights of justice. The French public prosecutor’s office announced, Thursday, November 24, to have opened at the end of October two judicial investigations relating to the intervention of consulting firms in the electoral campaigns of 2017 and 2022.

During the last presidential election, a Senate report sparked heated controversy over the use of public funds for the benefit of these cabinets.

“It is up to the courts to conduct these investigations independently,” soberly commented the Elysee Palace on Thursday evening, after having “read the communication” from the national financial prosecutor’s office.

After an article in the newspaper Le Parisien entitled “McKinsey case: Emmanuel Macron targeted by an investigation for illegal campaign financing”, the national financial prosecutor’s office published a press release to “clarify the situation of various criminal proceedings” initiated after the report of the Senate and various complaints and reports.

The prosecution specifies that “following several reports and complaints from elected officials and individuals, a judicial investigation was opened on October 20, 2022, in particular of the heads of non-compliant keeping of campaign accounts and reduction of accounting elements in an account of campaign, relating to the conditions of intervention of consulting firms in the electoral campaigns of 2017 and 2022”.

The public prosecutor adds that another piece of information “was opened on October 21, 2022 on the grounds of favoritism and concealment of favoritism”.

A preliminary investigation in progress

Published on March 16, the report of the Senate commission of inquiry into the growing influence of private consulting firms on public policy assured that contracts between the State and the firms had “more than doubled” between 2018 and 2021, for a record amount of over €1 billion in 2021.

The opposition immediately demanded the opening of an investigation into the links between the Macronist majority and McKinsey.

The Senate report also pointed to a possible tax arrangement for McKinsey’s French entities, which would have allowed them to pay no corporate tax between 2011 and 2020.

In his press release, Jean-François Bohnert recalled that a preliminary investigation had already been underway on these facts since March 31 for “aggravated money laundering of aggravated tax evasion”. It resulted in a search of McKinsey’s French headquarters on May 24.

Macron could be summoned at the end of his second term

The head of state, whose name does not appear in the press release from the prosecution, is protected by his criminal immunity, provided for in article 67 of the Constitution. According to this article of the supreme law, the Head of State “cannot, during his term of office and before any French jurisdiction or administrative authority, be required to testify or be the subject of an action, an act information, instruction or prosecution”.

If the investigating magistrates were to consider that Emmanuel Macron must explain himself on these questions, they could summon him at the end of his second term at the Élysée, and only on the acts which were not committed in the exercise of his duties as President.

During the 2022 presidential election, in the midst of controversy, Emmanuel Macron had estimated that the non-payment of corporate tax by McKinsey was explained by the tax rules in force. “If there is evidence of manipulation, let it go to the criminal court,” he said.

The chairman of the Senate commission of inquiry Arnaud Bazin and the rapporteur Eliane Assassi indicated for their part that they had “full confidence in the justice system to carry out this investigation”. “Full light must be shed on this affair, which is of major importance for our democratic life.”

They recalled that the Senate had unanimously adopted in mid-October a bill which aims to better regulate the services of consulting firms, but which must still be placed on the agenda of the Assembly.

With AFP