Rape inquiry against French minister dropped

French prosecutors have dropped a rape investigation against Budget Minister Gérald Darmanin. But he is still under investigation over charges by another woman that he usedd his position to demand sexual favours.

French Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin.
French Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

Prosecutors announced on Friday that they have stopped their inquiries into an accusation that the 35-year-old rising political star raped Sophie Spatz, now 46, when she sought his help in having her criminal record expunged in 2009.

They say a preliminary probe failed to establish "the absence of consent on the part of the complainant" or that she was acting "under constraint, threat, surprise or any sort of violence towards her".

Darmanin had denied pressuring the former call girl into sex in return for a promise to help her clear her name.

Welcoming Friday's decision, Darmanin thanked those who had supported him "in this difficult time".

"Since the start of this slander I have kept my trust in the justice system," he said.

But he is still under investigation over allegations by another woman that he used his position as mayor of the northern town of Tourcoing to ask for sexual favours.

The woman said he "made advances" when she asked for help in getting social housing.

Old case against environment minister resurfaces

Darmanin is not the only minister to have become embroiled in allegations of sexual assault.

It emerged last week that Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot was accused a decade ago of raping the granddaughter of former French president Francois Mitterrand in 1997.

Pascale Mitterrand, who confirmed she was the woman behind the complaint after being named by French media, chose to file the complaint after the deadline to report the alleged assault had passed, meaning it was never investigated.

She also objected to the publicity given to the case this year.

Hulot, a celebrity environmentalist, went on television to deny the "shameful" rumours before they were published.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said ministers will keep their jobs unless charged with an offence.

But the allegations have cast a shadow over President Emmanuel Macron's promise to make women's rights a "national cause." 

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