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French Senate asks prosecutors to probe Macron aides over Benalla affair

Ludovic Marin, Pool, AFP | Emmanuel Macron with Alexis Kohler and Patrick Strzoda at the Élysée Palace, Paris, March 18, 2019.

In a new twist to the Benalla affair, the French Senate asked judicial authorities to probe three senior aides to Emmanuel Macron over the scandal on Thursday, including the president’s "right-hand man" Alexis Kohler.

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A Senate commission decided to report Alexandre BenallaMacron’s former bodyguard, whom video footage has shown beating up a protester at a May Day rally –  Patrick Strzoda and Vincent Crase, a reservist in the national gendarmerie, on the grounds that they are suspected of concealing the truth when interrogated by the parliamentary committee.

Contacted by FRANCE 24, Hélène Conway-Mouret, the Socialist vice-president of the Senate, confirmed these details. The offence of giving false testimony is punishable by five years in prison and a €75,000 fine.

Meanwhile Alexis Kohler, the secretary general of the presidential office, and Lionel Lavergne, the presidential security chief, stand accused of showing “inconsistencies” in their testimony to the Senate commission – which envince “major dysfunctions” in Macron’s presidential office, a member of the committee told AFP.

“Kohler is the right-hand man to Macron,” said FRANCE 24 French Politics Editor Marc Perelman. “Some have even said that they’re so close that Kohler is an extension of Macron’s brain.”

The Senate investigation is responding to further discoveries about Benalla since the video footage of his May Day activities was released by Le Monde in August 2018, Perelman pointed out: “Since then there have been revelations that he was not merely a bodyguard, that he was close to Macron, that he was issued diplomatic passports and weapons permits, and that he even dealt with some Russian oligarchs while he was in the Élysée.”

“The Senators have said that those three top aides have not told the whole truth about what Benalla was up to, and what authorisation they granted him to carry out all those kinds of activities,” Perelman continued.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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