France ex-presidential hopeful Royal probed over expenses

Segolene Royal has, in recent weeks, issued a flurry of tweets and statements bashing the government and Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 January 2020

France ex-presidential hopeful Royal probed over expenses

  • Royal unsuccessfully stood as the Socialist candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency in 2007
  • The 66-year-old former environment minister, a key figure in left-wing politics, has denied the allegations

PARIS: 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 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.
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 criticizing 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 globalized 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.


India reports over 8,000 new coronavirus cases

Updated 31 May 2020

India reports over 8,000 new coronavirus cases

  • Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities

NEW DELHI: India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.
Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.
Overall, more than 60 percent of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.
Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was sent to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”
India has denied of any community transmission even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.
The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite the “draconian lockdown,” which began March 25.
The restrictions have slowly been relaxed, with the government announcing Saturday a phased “Unlock 1” plan from June onwards that allows more economic activities. The restrictions in so-called containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to the outbreaks — will remain through June 30.
Modi, who addressed the nation through his monthly radio program on Sunday, said India was faring better than other countries.
India has a fatality rate of 2.8 percent.
There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.