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Macron's former security chief Benalla denies lying to Senate

Alain Jocard, AFP | Former Elysee senior security officer Alexandre Benalla (L), flanked by Senator and commisision speaker Jean-Pierre Sueur, appears before a Senate committee in Paris on January 21, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s former top security aide Alexandre Benalla on Monday denied accusations of lying in front of the Senate Law Commission.

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This related to Benalla’s use of diplomatic passports, which he claimed were returned at the beginning of October, well after his dismissal by the Elysée.

Benalla was fired last year after a video emerged of  him attacking a May Day protester. He was back in the spotlight for consultancy work in African countries where he acknowledged he had continued to use diplomatic passports.

At a previous hearing on September 19 before the same committee, Macron’s former confidant had declared that his identity documents would likely be found at the Elysée Palace.

“I didn’t lie to you on September 19 when I told you said that my passports were at the Elysée,” Benalla said on Monday, under oath.

Benalla's lawyer said he was charged at a court hearing on 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.

'Passports were returned to me'

Benalla 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.

“I returned them in August 2018” and “these passports were then returned to me again, when I had been contacted by a member of the Elysée (...), in early October 2018”, Benalla said, without giving the identity of the employee of the Elysée to which he was referring.

“I was informed that these passports had not been not disabled, otherwise I wouldn’t have travelled using these passports,” said Benalla said. “And I do acknowledge here, on my part, a lack of discernment perhaps.”

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.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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