Nice little earner: right-wing French senators get 8,000-euro Christmas 'tip'

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It was their secret. Every Christmas from 2003 to 2014, the venerable senators belonging to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, recently renamed Les Républicains, received a hand-out of around 8,000 euros per person on the quiet, on top of their ample salaries and expenses. It was described by the senators themselves as their annual tip or 'Christmas box'. Now the new chairman of their Senate group has decided to put an end to the practice. Mathilde Mathieu reports on yet another example of the Senate gravy-train, which emerges amid a continuing judicial investigation into suspected money laundering and misuse of public funds by the UMP Senate group.

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Each December for the past twelve years the word would go around the corridors of France's Senate that Father Christmas had arrived. Senators would then queue up in the office of the UMP Senate group accountant to collect an envelope. These envelopes contained 'étrennes', a term equivalent to 'Christmas box' and usually employed for the modest end-of-year payments that members of the public in France give to public sector workers in France such as postmen and women, refuse collectors and fire officers. For most public workers in France the total amount of this Christmas 'box' might be just a few hundred euros at most. But in the envelopes of each of the UMP senators was a cheque for around 8,000 euros.