French opposition leader embroiled in scandal
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French opposition leader Jean-François Copé became embroiled in a scandal on Thursday with reports that a communications agency founded by two of his associates had overcharged his party during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
“Le Point” has already dubbed the story “the Copé affair." It reported on Thursday, that Event, a subsidiary of Bygmalion, a communications agency, systematically overcharged Copé’s party, The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), to organise campaign rallies.
“Le Point” said that Event often billed twice for charges such as catering and setting up the video and lighting at rallies. Event, and therefore Bygmalion, did well out of the election, adding eight million euros to its earnings during the election campaign in extra charges. After the UMP candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost, Copé took over as party leader and soon appealed to supporters to replenish its coffers -- to the tune of 11 million euros.
Bygmalion was created in 2008 by two of Copé’s former aides. One is Bastien Millot, who was Copé’s chief of staff in the town hall at Meaux, outside Paris, where Copé has been mayor, with only a brief interruption, since 1995. The other is Guy Alves, who was chief of staff when Copé was Minister of Finance in the Sarkozy government.
"Le Point" also said that one of Bygmalion's shareholders in Luxembourg seems to be a front for Emmanuel Limido, a fund manager linked to the Qatar royal family’s holding company. The newspaper said that when Copé was budget minister, he agreed to sell two valuable pieces of state-owned French property to Qatar with Limido acting as an intermediary.
"It's absolutely disgusting," Copé said on ITélé on Thursday morning. He said he was filing a defamation suit against "Le Point" and the two writers of the article.
"It’s a complete set-up of the basest kind. The only way to respond is through the courts."
Copé blamed Le Point’s editor, Frantz Olivier Giesbert, "who for months and months has been attacking Nicolas Sarkozy and myself, to destroy us.”