French minister Le Roux resigns amid family payment allegations

Posted March 23, 2017

The French interior minister has been forced to resign in a row over employing his teenage daughters as parliamentary assistants during the school holidays, in another blow to the country's beleaguered political elite with one month to go until the first round of presidential elections.

President Francois Hollande said he had accepted Le Roux's resignation after a meeting with Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve at the Elysee Palace.

Similar charges last week saw French presidential candidate Francois Fillon being put under formal investigation.

The inquiry, prompted by a TV show in which minister Bruno Le Roux acknowledged having used parliamentary assistance funds to hire his two daughters as summer helpers, risks harming the image of a Socialist government near the end of its term.

Le Roux's speech was broadcast by the BFMTV channel.

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.

Bruno Le Roux stood down hours after the financial prosecutor's office announced they were putting him under preliminary investigation. The new interior minister was named on Tuesday afternoon as Matthias Fekl. Le Roux alluded to that, telling reporters he had chose to resign because he did not want this issue "to harm the government's work".

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The swift judicial reaction to the report on Le Roux's daughters reflects a marked shift in French attitudes toward corruption in politics, notably since the new position of a national financial prosecutor was created three years ago.

In a clear reference to Fillon, Cazeneuve said Tuesday that public figures should not challenge the independence of the judiciary. Nevertheless, this latest jobs-for-the-family scandal is deeply embarrassing for the Socialist government in the runup to leadership and legislative elections.

In a brief statement on Tuesday evening, Le Roux insisted he had done nothing wrong.

The girls were still in school when he first hired them and continued doing work for him - paid with taxpayers' money - when they were in university.

The report alleges that the daughters earned a total of $59,000 between 2009 and 2016.

Fillon admitted to employing his family members as parliamentary assistants but denied acting illegally.