New French interior minister takes short-timer, scandal-plagued role

Published 23.03.2017 00:25

A low-profile politician is taking over as France's interior minister after his predecessor came under formal investigation over a report that he hired his daughters for a series of jobs in the legislature. Matthias Fekl took office Wednesday as a short-timer overseeing France's fight against extremism, illegal migration and other crime. The current government leaves office in May.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux resigned Tuesday a few hours after prosecutors opened an investigation into a report that he hired his two daughters for a series of temporary parliamentary jobs, starting when they were 15 and 16 years old. President Francois Hollande said he had accepted Le Roux's resignation after a meeting with Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve at the Elysee Palace.

France's national financial prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation Tuesday after TMC television reported Monday night that Le Roux employed his daughters as parliamentary assistants for a total salary amount of 55,000 euros ($59,000) over 24 short contracts.

The office said the preliminary investigation into the facts disclosed in the TV program is being led by the French police agency charged with fighting corruption and financial and tax wrongdoing.

While it is legal in France for politicians to hire family members, the TMC report suggests that Le Roux's daughters did not perform all of the work. During some of their contracts as parliamentary aides, one of the daughters was doing a full-time internship in Belgium while the other was studying in an intensive class.

Le Roux's daughters, now 23 and 20, allegedly started working as parliamentary aides for their father over short vacation contracts when they were 15 and 16 and Le Roux was a lawmaker in the French National Assembly.

The resignation of Le Roux comes amid a similar investigation into conservative François Fillon that has dented his presidential bid. Fillon was handed preliminary charges last week for allegedly using taxpayers' money to pay family members — his wife and two children — for jobs that may not have existed.

Left-wing politicians pointed out that Le Roux resigned as soon as the preliminary investigation had been launched, while Fillon decided to keep campaigning although he has been handed serious charges, including misuse of public funds, receiving money from a misuse of public funds funds and company assets. Fillon initially vowed to quit as presidential candidate if he were to be charged before changing his mind. Le Roux has not been charged so far.

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