Edouard Philippe affair: searches in Le Havre, moral intimidation… What we know about the investigation carried out by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office

On Wednesday, April 3, searches were carried out at the Le Havre town hall and at the headquarters of the urban community, as part of an investigation by the National Financial Prosecutor (PNF) that focused in particular on former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. This investigation responds to a complaint filed last September, alleging facts dating back to July 2020.

Former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is at the center of media news this Wednesday, April 3, as searches are carried out at the home of the mayor of Le Havre as part of an investigation by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office.

What are the alleged facts?

The investigation was opened in December 2023 following the filing of a complaint by the former deputy director general of the urban community, and concerns suspicions of “illegal advocacy, nepotism, embezzlement of public funds and moral intimidation”.

The facts date back to July 2020, when the exploitation of the Cité Numérique was awarded by the urban community of Le Havre to an association, LH French Tech, chaired by Stéphanie de Bazelaire, then deputy mayor and community advisor. The agreement, signed for four years, included more than two million euros in subsidies.

The complainant thus identified a risk of conflict of interest based on her position and reported this to her superiors. She then says she was pressured, to the point where she was sidelined and saw her contract not renewed after three years, hence the moral harassment complaint. According to The worldthe complainant’s fixed-term contract was not renewed in April 2023 by the community’s president, Edouard Philippe, due to a lack of expertise and commitment.

And even if the urban community of Le Havre were to prematurely end the problematic agreement after eighteen months, a million euros of public money would have already been spent.

In this case, in addition to Édouard Philippe and his assistant, the general director of urban community services Claire-Sophie Tasias is also targeted.

How does Édouard Philippe react?

The former Prime Minister spoke this Wednesday, April 3, in his capacity as Mayor of Le Havre in a joint press release, explaining that “the Mayor, elected officials and teams of the City of Le Havre and the urban community (…) are fully and calmly available remain the responsibility of the public prosecutor’s office to make available all elements necessary for the investigation.

Speaking to the microphone of BFM Normandie, he confirmed the ongoing searches and reiterated his desire to cooperate with investigators.

Searches at the town hall of Le Havre: “We are at the disposal of the magistrates” explains Édouard Philippe at the microphone of BFM Normandie pic.twitter.com/sMazDOS7xj

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) April 3, 2024

Last September, after the revelation of the filing of the complaint, the urban community of Le Havre, chaired by Édouard Philippe, confided that it had only learned of this filing of the complaint through the press: “The world confirms that a complaint has been filed against political and administrative officials of the Urban Community. They are not informed of this. If this procedure were proven, they would of course, and with complete peace of mind, be available to the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office to assert their rights.”

What does the complainant say about this?

The woman who was at the origin of the complaint in September 2023, and therefore former deputy general director of the urban community, commented through her lawyer Christelle Mazza on the announcement of the ongoing searches and stated satisfaction.

“This is very encouraging for the status of whistleblower and for all public officials who, in the exercise of their duties, including at the highest level, witness acts that could be punishable,” said Christelle Mazza. “They are, and this affair demonstrates at this stage, real democratic sentinels,” she added.

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