French ex-presidential candidate Ségolène Royal probed over expenses
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French prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened an investigation into allegations that former French presidential candidate Segolene Royal used expenses meant for her ambassadorial job to promote her side interests.
Royal, who unsuccessfully stood as the Socialist candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency in 2007, has since 2017 worked as an ambassador for the Polar Regions with responsibility for negotiating international agreements.
She has an annual expenses budget of 100,000 euros for her mission, as well as three staff members who are paid for by the foreign ministry.
The national prosecutors' office for financial crimes confirmed to AFP that Royal was under investigation.
The 66-year-old former environment minister, a key figure in left-wing politics, has denied the allegations which she has slammed as "insinuations" and "defamatory".
"Nothing new," she wrote on Twitter after the investigation was announced, saying she would make a further statement later.
Rien de nouveau. Retrouvez toutes les explications cet après midi sur FB. https://t.co/BLvVlZP5aA— Ségolène Royal (@RoyalSegolene) January 15, 2020
France Info radio said Royal was suspected of using her staff to accompany her on missions unrelated to her official role, such as promoting her book and working for her foundation.
Even before the news of the investigation broke, Royal's future was in question after the government warned she faced dismissal for repeatedly criticising President Emmanuel Macron's policies, including his controversial pension reforms.
"Madam Ambassador, we are considering terminating your position in view of your recent public statements," read the letter jointly signed by the general secretaries of the foreign and environment ministries that Royal posted on her Facebook page.
Royal said herself that she considered herself to have been dismissed. A source close to the government told AFP that she would likely be fired after a cabinet meeting on January 24.
Her appointment by Macron as ambassador to the Arctic and Antarctic in 2017 was seen as something of a consolation prize for Royal, who missed out on several more senior postings.
In recent weeks her position had appeared to be in jeopardy after a flurry of tweets and statements bashing the government and Macron.
Reacting to Macron's announcement in December amid crippling strikes that he would foreswear his own presidential pension, Royal tweeted acidly that "the real question" was whether the former investment banker would return to "the globalised business world with its huge golden handshakes" after he left office.
Last month, two MPs had demanded she be summoned by parliament to give an account of her work on the Polar Regions.
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