Published: Wed, July 25, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

France's Macron orders shake-up of presidency after bodyguard scandal

France's Macron orders shake-up of presidency after bodyguard scandal

French investigators on Saturday raided the house of one of French President Emmanuel Macron's top security aides, a man who was caught on camera beating a young protester in May.

The charges came after French authorities opened a judicial investigation over the alleged assault, which has sparked the first major political crisis for Mr Macron since he took office previous year. He is facing charges of violence by a public official, impersonating a police officer and complicity in unauthorised use of surveillance footage, the Paris prosecutor's office said. Three police officers were charged with illegally recovering official CCTV footage of the incident which they allegedly gave to Mr Benalla.

Vincent Crase, a bodyguard employed by Mr Macron's party, was also charged with assault, interfering with police and carrying an illegal weapon.

Before he joined the presidential staff he had the role of head of security during Mr Macron's election campaign in 2017.

The Elysee Palace said that Alexandre Benalla, 26, would be dismissed after "new elements" emerged in the case, namely that he is suspected of unlawfully receiving police surveillance footage in a bid to clear his name.

Alexandre Benalla, French presidential aide, is seen during the May Day labour union rally in Paris on May 1, 2018.

Acknowledging a series of malfunctions at the Elysee palace since May Day, Macron asked the secretary-general of the presidency, Alexis Kohler, to work on a reorganisation of his private office to prevent this happening again, the source said.

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French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb will face questions from parliament next week to see if the government failed to properly discipline Benalla. Macron pledged as a candidate to restore integrity and transparency to the presidency.

Formerly an employee of a private security firm, Mr Benalla had worked with other French politicians in the past - including leading Socialist Martine Aubry and Mr Macron's predecessor in the Elysée, François Hollande.

Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

Several opposition lawmakers, from different parties, have demanded that the matter be addressed, but the government has, so far, remained silent on the incident.

Suspicion about a possible coverup surfaced after what appeared to be inconsistent answers from Macron's office.

Macron brushes off journalists' questions about the scandal during a visit to southern France, even as opposition parties paralyse proceedings in the National Assembly by holding crisis meetings and demanding explanations.

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