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.


HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Updated 10 August 2020

HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

  • Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested over suspected collusion with foreign forces under the new national security law, his top aide said on Twitter, in what is the highest-profile arrest yet under the legislation.
Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, which imposed the sweeping new law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
The new security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Critics say it crushes freedoms in the semiautonomous city, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.
“Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time,” Mark Simon, a senior executive at Lai’s media company Next Digital, which publishes local tabloid Apple Daily, said early on Monday.
Police did not immediately comment.
Lai was also arrested this year on illegal assembly charges, along with other leading activists, relating to protests last year.
In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai pledged to stay in Hong Kong and continue to fight for democracy even though he expected to be one of the targets of the new legislation.