September 11, 2019 / 4:00 PM / 7 days ago

Judges question leader of France's National Assembly in graft probe

PARIS (Reuters) - French National Assembly president Richard Ferrand, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, was being questioned on Wednesday by investigating judges over allegations of financial impropriety, a source close to the probe said.

A previous investigation by French public prosecutors into Ferrand’s financial dealings was dropped in late 2017. Ferrand, who had denied any wrongdoing, resigned as minister when that probe was ongoing.

A lawmaker, he now heads up Macron’s party in the lower house of parliament. The latest probe relates, like the last one, to Ferrand’s management of a health insurance company in Brittany.

The new investigation was launched after the anti-corruption group Anticor refiled its original complaint in a different local jurisdiction, an aide to Ferrand said.

The complaint was based “on the same facts, without any new elements, and by the same plaintiff,” the aide said.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye declined to comment at a weekly news conference on Wednesday when asked about the latest investigation.

Macron’s right-hand man during the 2017 presidential campaign, Ferrand became embroiled in allegations of financial impropriety within days of Macron’s victory in May.

The allegations that Ferrand allegedly benefited improperly from property deals done eight years ago by a health insurance fund he managed tainted the early weeks of the Macron presidency.

If the judges place Ferrand under formal investigation it would bring renewed scrutiny to Macron’s promise to clean up French politics.

Reporting by Simon Carraud and Elizabeth Pineau, additional reporting by Marine Pennetier, Writing by Sarah White; editing by Richard Lough and Giles Elgood

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