French opposition chief caught in party 'sting' scandal

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Press report says UMP leader Jean-François Copé handed lucrative PR contract to former aides who systematically overcharged his party.

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French opposition leader Jean-François Copé has become embroiled in a scandal over a weekly news magazine's report that a communications agency founded by two of his former associates overcharged his party during its unsuccessful 2012 presidential election campaign, reports FRANCE 24.

Le Point reported on Thursday that Event, a subsidiary of Bygmalion, a communications agency, systematically over-charged Copé’s party, The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), to organize campaign rallies.

Le Point said that Event often billed twice for charges such as catering and setting up the video and lighting at rallies. Event, and therefore Bygmalion, did well out of the election, adding eight million euros to its earnings during the election in extra charges.

After the UMP candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost, Copé took over as party leader and soon appealed to supporters to replenish its coffers - to the tune of 11 million euros.

Bygmalion was created in 2008 by two of Copé’s former aides. One is Bastien Millot, who was Copé’s chief of staff in the town hall at Meaux, outside Paris, where Copé has been mayor, with only a brief interruption, since 1995. The other is Guy Alves, who was chief of staff when Copé was Minister of Finance in the Sarkozy government.

Le Point also said that one of Bygmalion's shareholders in Luxembourg seems to be a front for Emmanuel Limido, a fund manager linked to Qatar royal family’s holding company. The magazine said that when Copé was budget minister, he agreed to sell two valuable pieces of state-owned French property to Qatar with Limido acting as an intermediary.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

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