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Former Macron aide Benalla returns before Senate investigative committee

Alain Jocard, AFP | Alexandre Benalla leaves a Senate committee hearing in Paris on September 19, 2018.

A former top security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron returns Monday before a Senate committee investigating how Alexandre Benalla continued to travel on French diplomatic passports after being fired.

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"We will ask any question on all matters concerning the security of the head-of-state” and the manner in which the former aide responsible for Macron’s travel “intervened in various areas related to security", Jean-Pierre Sueur, a Socialist senator and co-chair of the Senate investigation committee, told Europe 1 on Sunday evening.

Benalla, 27, was taken into police custody on Thursday and charged over his continued use of diplomatic passports after being fired in August.

He already faces criminal charges after he was filmed roughing up protesters on May Day last year while wearing a police helmet.

The video, and claims that Macron's office tried to cover up the affair, caused a political storm that severely dented the president's popularity.

Revelations over the summer that Macron's office knew about that incident but kept Benalla in his job led to furious accusations from political opponents of a presidential cover-up.

Benalla was eventually sacked on August 1, and he has since been charged with assault and impersonating a police officer.

In recent weeks it has emerged that Benalla retained two diplomatic and two service passports after losing his job, using them to travel to Africa for meetings with top officials including Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno.

'Insider status' accusations

Benalla says he has been working legitimately as a business consultant.

But some officials fear he has been attempting to profit from his former insider status, and last month he received a sharp warning against any breach of confidentiality.

Benalla's lawyer said he was charged at a court hearing Friday with unauthorised use of professional documents.

But he was not charged with forgery, an allegation levelled by Macron's chief of staff Patrick Strzoda.

Benalla has claimed that he returned the passports shortly after his sacking but that they were handed back to him by an official in the presidency in October.

Appearing before a Senate committee probing the affair, Strzoda said last week that Benalla had used his diplomatic passports "some 20 times" over the past six months.

A former bouncer, Benalla began working as a bodyguard for Macron during his election campaign in 2016 before being promoted to a senior security role in the presidential palace in May 2017.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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