France’s justice chief accused of conflict of interest

National/World

PARIS (AP) — France’s justice minister was handed preliminary charges Friday on accusations of conflict of interest, the first time in modern French history that a member of government was given such charges while in office.

Eric Dupond-Moretti is accused of abusing his position as minister to settle accounts in legal cases involving his work as a lawyer, before he was named to the government.

He denies wrongdoing and has said he won’t step down. President Emmanuel Macron was not expected to remove Dupond-Moretti from the government despite the charges.

Dupond-Moretti was handed the preliminary charges by a special court that handles accusations against government ministers. Under French law, the move means that investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but allow more time for further investigation.

Soon after he was named to the government in 2020, Dupond-Moretti opened administrative inquiries against magistrates who were investigating legal cases that involved him. Magistrates’ unions filed a legal complaint in response, prompting an investigation into possible conflict of interest.

Dupond-Moretti’s troubles have caused drama within France’s legal and political circles. His offices in the Justice Ministry were searched last month, and he was questioned for hours Friday by investigating magistrates.

It is the first time under France’s Fifth Republic, formed in 1958, that a minister has been given preliminary charges while in office, according to legal historians.

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