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French govt reports clear ex-environment minister de Rugy of over-spending

Alain Jocard, AFP | Outgoing French Environment Minister Francois de Rugy (L) and his wife Severine Servat de Rugy attend the handover ceremony, on July 17, 2019 at the ministry in Paris.

Two reports released Tuesday cleared the former No. 2 in the French government of excessive spending a week after Francois de Rugy resigned as environment minister.

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The reports by the prime minister’s office and France’s parliament were ordered after a week of French media reports with claims that de Rugy used taxpayers’ money to pay for lobster and fine wine dinners, allegedly consumed with friends.

The report by the prime minister’s office focused on de Rugy’s spending of 63,000 euros to refurbish his official apartment. It concluded the rules were "globally respected".

A second report concerned a dozen dinners held when de Rugy presided over parliament’s lower house. It said there were “no irregularities” but looked askance at three dinners viewed as over the top.

Responding to the findings on Tuesday, de Rugy said he felt exonerated and reiterated that he “never doubted for a moment” that the inquiries would clear his record and establish his “honesty”.

De Rugy has filed a libel suit against French investigative website Mediapart over its reports alleging that the former ecology minister and one-time president of the National Assembly and his wife lived “like royals on public funds”.

Lobsters and fine wines

The spending allegations, which included lavish dinners of platters lined with lobster served with bottles of grand cru wine, grabbed headlines and sparked de Rugy’s resignation as environment minister earlier this month.

But de Rugy consistently maintained his innocence and claimed he was the target of a “media lynching”.

Mediapart, for its part, said its reporting was in the public interest.

“You don’t hold public office hostage in order to defend yourself,” Mediapart co-founder Edwy Plenel told FRANCE 24 in an interview last week. “François de Rugy needed to learn the consequences very quickly. Public money should not be used for private functions.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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