French deputy PM resigns over lobster lifestyle

French deputy PM resigns over lobster lifestyle

The embattled French deputy prime minister has resigned following media reports that he has been living a lavish lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense. 

Francois de Rugy (pictured), who is also the environment minister, posted on Facebook that he was resigning “to defend myself” and to protect his family from “media attacks”. 

He said he filed a defamation lawsuit in response to Mediapart reports that he and his wife hosted lavish dinners for friends while he served as the parliamentary president. 

After his appointment in September as ecology minister, Rugy reportedly spent €60,000 refurbishing his government apartment.

Distancing himself from the potential scandal, President Emmanuel Macron told a Monday news conference that if an investigation into Rugy’s lifestyle concluded he took advantage of public funds, he would be sacked. 

“The media attacks and lynching of my family force me to take a step back — which anyone could understand,” Rugy posted. “The mobilisation necessary to defend myself means that I will not be able to serenely and effectively carry out the mission entrusted to me.”

The 45-year-old said his defamation case would expose “untruths” published by Mediapart last week based on “stolen photos, gossip, approximations”. 

“There is no doubt about the will to harm, dirty, demolish,” he said.

Rugy became ecology minister in September after his predecessor, TV star Nicolas Hulot, resigned in frustration at obstacles to doing the job. 

As National Assembly president, Rugy introduced a series of tough restrictions on the individual spending of parliamentarians as part of a reform campaign to clean up parliament. 

Mediapart published photos of lavish dinners featuring capacious lobsters and the wines selected were among the best in the renowned National Assembly cellars. 

Anti-government protesters carried giant mock lobsters at weekend marches. 

Separate investigations have been ordered into the renovation of the apartment and the dinner parties while he was National Assembly president.

Mediapart alleged Rugy used €9,200 from his expense funds as an MP to pay for his Greens party membership and then claimed it as a tax deduction.

Macron might have learned lessons from the extended saga over disgraced bodyguard Alexandre Benalla’s last year. Macron’s team covered up Benalla’s beating of May Day protesters for weeks while he was disguised as a police officer. Macron later defended him before finally firing him in July 2018. 

Macron’s approval ratings slumped and the “Benalla affair” fuelled anger about the novice president’s governing style that evolved into the yellow vest or gilet jaunes movement by November 17 last year.  


Francois de Rugy. Picture credit: Wikimedia 



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