France retains two in secret dinner scandal

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France retains two in secret dinner scandal


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PARIS: French police were arrested on Friday for questioning grand chef Christophe Leroy and flamboyant businessman Pierre-Jean Chalencon after being accused of organizing clandestine dinners at restaurants for VIPs in defiance of restrictions on Covid-19, prosecutors said.

Private television station M6 broadcast a report on Friday based on footage recorded with an allegedly hidden camera from an underground restaurant in an upscale district of Paris where neither staff nor diners wore masks.

All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for eating there for five months. The country began a new nationwide limited lockdown this week to deal with the surge in Covid-19 infections. The hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We want names) went viral on Twitter, as speculation swirled around who might have attended such dinners.

Chalencon, owner of the luxury Palais Vivienne room in central Paris that would have been used for such an event, told the channel that several such dinners had taken place and even ministers were present. The long-haired businessman, a prominent collector of memorabilia, then retracted the remark and the government vehemently denied any ministers were involved.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said on Sunday that a criminal investigation had been opened to put the lives of others in danger. The police raided the premises of the Palais Vivienne on Thursday and a similar search was carried out at the home of Christophe Leroy on Wednesday.

Leroy’s lawyer, Thierry Fradet, said his client had submitted documents showing that all the dinners he had organized were held in private homes – according to the rules in force – and not in secret restaurants.

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