French prosecutors open corruption probe into top Macron aide

PARIS — A top aide to French President Emmanuel Macron is under official investigation for allegedly violating conflict-of-interest laws related to his family ties to a Swiss-Italian shipping company he controlled while he was a senior finance official.

Prosecutors say they opened the probe after a complaint was filed targeting Alexis Kohler, Mr Macron’s anti-corruption chief of staff. Anticor alleges that Mr. Kohler failed to disclose his relationship with Mediterranean Shipping Co., which is owned by a relative, and helped defend the company’s interests when he worked for state-owned APE between 2010 and 2012, a spokesman said. of the group. .

Mr Kohler represented the government on the board of a shipyard in western France at the time, and the port authority of the city of Le Havre in northern France. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 euros, equivalent to about $490,000, if charged and subsequently convicted.

A lawyer for Mr Kohler said his client “vehemently denies any wrongdoing”.

Mr Macron’s office did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mediterranean Shipping declined to comment.

Separately, judges on Monday ordered French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti to stand trial in another conflict of interest case. Prosecutors say Mr Dupond-Moretti tried to use his position as a minister to clear judges with whom he had clashed while working as a criminal lawyer. His lawyers said on Monday that Mr Dupond-Moretti had denied wrongdoing and was appealing.

The news comes as a blow to Mr Macron, whose government is already under pressure after the French leader lost his majority in parliament earlier this year. Mr Macron’s party and its allies won the most seats in France’s National Assembly in June, but not enough to retain the majority that allowed the French leader to topple the opposition in his first term.

French officials say Mr Kohler is one of the few advisers in the Elysee presidential palace who has Mr Macron’s ear. Anticor filed an initial complaint against Mr. Kohler in 2018, but the case was initially dismissed. The new investigation stems from another complaint filed in 2020, prosecutors said.

Write to Noemie Bisserbe at ¥[email protected]

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