Lobsters & wine? French environment minister steps down over embarrassing report on ‘lavish feasts’
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The French environment minister has announced his resignation after a media report claimed he financed luxurious dinners from the public till, served with $600 bottles of wine. The former minister is responding with a libel suit.
François de Rugy, Minister for Ecological and Solidary Transition, submitted his resignation on Tuesday, denying the report and stating he and his family were victims of “media lynching” and “attacks.”
“The attacks and the media lynching that my family is undergoing today lead me to take the necessary distance,” the minister wrote in his statement, adding “I am not able to assume serenely and effectively the mission entrusted to me by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.”
De Rugy is the fourth minister to resign since French President Emmanuel Macron took office in 2017; his portfolio will be passed to Jack Azoulay, the outgoing minister’s recently-appointed chief of staff.
The resignation comes after a report from French news outlet Mediapart revealing that, between 2017 and 2018, the minister spent large sums of taxpayers’ money on over a dozen “sumptuous feasts with friends,” including on pricey lobster entrees and €550 ($617) bottles of wine.
The investigation also found that the minister spent some €63,000 ($70,655) from the public purse on unnecessary office repairs and housing rental costs for staff.
In addition to De Rugy, who has vowed to file a defamation suit against Mediapart and to fight the allegations in court, some of the dinners’ other attendees also denied the report and insist the meetings were kept simple.
“There was nothing luxurious,” television producer Yasmina Nin-Faucon, who attended some of the events, told French broadcaster BFMTV. The dinner “was very short and we left.”
Serge Raffy, another French media figure invited to the dinner parties, added “there were no lobsters, not even great wines.”
Another French outlet, Le Journal du Dimanache, reported over the weekend that the minister’s spending habits were less indulgent than his predecessor.
An official ethics inquiry into the matter is expected by the end of July.
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