French police search officials’ homes as part of coronavirus investigation | World news


French police raided the homes and offices of French officials, including the former prime minister, as part of an investigation into the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.Current and former ministers have been the target of at least 90 formal legal complaints from civic groups and members of the public about their response to the health emergency.

Investigators on Thursday targeted the home of former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe as well as current Minister of Health Olivier Véran, former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn, former government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye and the head of the French health authority, Jérôme Salomon.

Solomon became known as Mr. Covid for his daily health briefings at the height of the epidemic in March and April.

The research came hours after President Emmanuel Macron announced new restrictions on Covid-19, including a nighttime curfew in the Paris region and eight other cities put on “high alert” after a second wave of infections.

The curfew, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., begins at midnight Saturday morning, will last at least four weeks and could be extended until December 1, Macron said.

Further details on the measure should be given Thursday by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex and Véran.

Two official investigations are underway on the French government’s response to Covid-19 – one administrative and one criminal – on the management of the crisis by French ministers and officials.

Coronavirus deaths in France – graph

Ministers can only be held accountable for their actions when they are in office by the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which is an administrative tribunal.

A judicial inquiry was opened in June to examine the validity of dozens of complaints, nine of which were transmitted to the Attorney General, François Molins, for further investigation. The CJR opened a formal investigation led by Molins the following month to “refrain from fighting a disaster”, a charge sanctioned by article 223-7 of the French penal code.

A separate preliminary criminal investigation, opened in June, is being led by the Paris public prosecutor, Rémy Heitz. The criminal investigation is specific and limited and will not focus on “political or administrative responsibility” but on whether the decision-makers have committed “possible criminal offenses”, including manslaughter or personal injuries and in danger, Heitz told reporters.

The prosecution demands proof that the defendants “intentionally” decided not to act in the face of the growing urgency of Covid-19. This is a charge created in 2000 as another form of France’s crime of “failing to assist a person in danger”, which applies to an immediate failure to act to save someone’s life. . Investigators must show that the actions of ministers and officials under investigation were willfully “absent” rather than negligent or erroneous.

In addition to providing masks and equipment, the investigation will examine suspected failures to introduce virus protection measures at workplaces and put in place sufficient tests to diagnose those infected with the virus.

In June, Heitz said investigators would examine the level of scientific knowledge of the disease that French authorities had access to when making decisions about regulations, masks and testing. He hinted that if there was any evidence of criminal wrongdoing it would likely be considered unintentional, but added that it was a “speculation”.

The first complaints were filed a few days after the start of the two-month lockdown in France in March and mainly come from individuals, associations of doctors, police, prison staff and detainees, among others. Some of the complaints relate to the masks and the fact that ministers misled the country that they were not useful in March, only to announce they were mandatory some time later. The complaints also accuse ministers and officials of “inconsistent actions” taken at state level and “non-implementation of WHO recommendations.”

Other complaints concern shortages of medical equipment.

In September, the Victims of Coronavirus in France collective – representing 200 people – lodged a complaint against Castex accusing him and the government of “navigating on sight” in the face of the epidemic.


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