French senators call for probe of Macron aides in bodyguard scandal
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A French Senate committee has said three members of President Emmanuel Macron’s inner circle should be investigated for withholding information about former bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who the committee also recommended should be prosecuted for perjury.
Benalla lost his job on Macron’s presidential staff after it was revealed last July that he had roughed up protesters at a May Day march in Paris while illegally wearing police equipment.
Macron and his office faced accusations of orchestrating a cover-up, and in detailing results of their seven-month inquiry into the incident, senators said they had found “major flaws” in the government’s response.
The commission said several presidential aides had “revealed a number of omissions, inconsistencies and contradictions” in their testimonies.
It named Macron’s chief of staff Patrick Strzoda, presidential secretary Alexis Kohler and security chief Lionel Lavergne as having possibly “withheld significant truth” and called on prosecutors to look into their statements.
It also called on the Senate’s president to file a complaint with prosecutors to have Benalla investigated for perjury for lying during the inquiry.
May Day events 'the tip of the iceberg'
Benalla himself was jailed on Tuesday for breaking the conditions of his bail.
The former bodyguard faces criminal charges for assault and impersonating a police officer at the May Day demonstration, which he was attending as an observer, and the scandal has continued to deepen.
“What was seen on 1 May could just be the tip of the iceberg,” said Senator Philippe Bas, president of the commission.
French government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux said Macron’s office would respond to the “many untrue elements” in the Senate’s findings.
Revelations that Benalla continued to travel on diplomatic passports after he was fired led to a separate investigation and grilling over his activities as a security consultant.
The Senate also said Benalla appeared to have misled the inquiry about his role in negotiating a contract between a French security firm and Russian mining magnate Iskander Makhmudov while he was employed in the presidential office.
French financial prosecutors opened a corruption probe into the contract, though there was no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Makhmudov.
Benalla has also boasted that he remained in contact with Macron long after his dismissal.
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