Monday 21 May 2018

Top French minister quits over jobs for his daughters

Bruno Le Roux resigned last night
Bruno Le Roux resigned last night

Henry Samuel in Paris

France's interior minister resigned last night after financial prosecutors opened an inquiry into whether he hired his student-age daughters for summer jobs while a member of parliament.

The shock resignation of Bruno Le Roux came in the wake of a similar payment scandal surrounding the British wife and two children of Francois Fillon, which has severely damaged his chances in the French presidential election and placed him under formal investigation.

Yesterday, it was reported that officials had widened their investigation into Mr Fillon and wife Penelope amid suspicions they had forged documents to justify her work as his aide.

Observers said Mr Le Roux's decision to fall on his sword to "defend his honour" puts further embarrassment on Mr Fillon, who pledged to stand down if formally investigated, only to carry on with his campaign.

It came as Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist nominee, solidified his position as favourite to win the forthcoming French election after polls suggested he won a television debate on Monday night between the five top candidates.

Mr Macron has pledged to ban the practice of MPs employing family members. He has also promised to pass a law "moralising" French politics.

In Mr Le Roux's case, a satirical television show, 'Quotidien', reported he employed his two daughters 24 times as parliamentary assistants during their school breaks for a total payment of €55,000.

By comparison, Mr Fillon is suspected of paying his wife and children €1m in parliamentary funds for fictitious jobs.

In a brief statement, Mr Le Roux said: "I have tendered my resignation to the president, which allows me without any considerations as a man and father to defend my honesty."

While it is legal in France for politicians to hire family members, the report suggests that Mr Le Roux's daughters did not perform all of the work and were first hired while still in high school.

"A summer job as assistant is a bit of a joke, as you won't find anyone in the National Assembly in August." one parliamentary source said.

Mr Fillon (63) has seen his presidential chances plummet over the disclosure that he used taxpayers' money to employ his wife and children, and suspicions that he broke rules on donations by accepting a gift of two suits worth €13,000.

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