Minister denies crackdown on homeless to allow wife shop
France's interior minister was forced to deny claims that he ordered the police to clear his Paris neighbourhood of tramps and gypsies so his wife could "shop in peace".
Manuel Valls, known in France as the country's "number one cop", is reported to have ordered officers to display "zero tolerance" to the homeless found on the pavements of the trendy district around the revolutionary Right Bank Place de la Bastille where he lives.
For years, tramps have frequented the rue de la Roquette near the Bastille opera and a stone's throw from Mr Valls's residence.
According to 'Le Canard Enchaine', the satirical and investigative weekly, when disgruntled down-and-outs demanded to know what was behind the sudden police zeal, they were told: "It's on the interior minister's orders."
According to the weekly, Mr Valls (50) ordered the clean-up at the request of his glamorous wife Anne Gravoin (46).
She is said to have complained about being accosted by a drunken tramp asking for money while on a shopping trip to the local Franprix supermarket.
"Two weeks ago, several officers started by turning up outside the store entrance. Since then, they go back and forward moving people on all day," Franprix management told 'Le Canard'.
"I've never seen anything like it," said one tramp after spending time in the local police station. "They told me they'd be back around 4pm and 8pm."
Mr Valls said he "categorically" denied he was behind the clean-up operation, saying the claims were "unfounded".
A spokesman at Paris police headquarters said the more aggressive approach was in response to complaints by local right-wing politicians and petitions by residents.
"As recently as this weekend police officers were attacked by drunken youths," it said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)