French police today raided the homes of the Minister of Health and the former Prime Minister as part of a criminal investigation into the country’s treatment of Covid-19.
Health Minister Olivier Veran, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and other senior officials raided their homes in dawn raids just hours after President Emmanuel Macron announced a curfew in large cities due to spiraling virus cases.
The investigation into “possible criminal offenses” was launched in July after patients, doctors and others filed dozens of complaints, including shortages of masks and other equipment.
The investigation could theoretically lead to a two-year prison sentence or a fine from a special court – although Macron himself is immune from prosecution.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran (left) and former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (right) searched their homes as part of an investigation into the government’s handling of Covid
Veran, Philippe and former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn are accused of “ not having fought a disaster ” after the French government recognized shortages of masks and other missteps in its handling of the pandemic.
The investigation was ordered by a special French court, the Court of Justice of the Republic, which deals exclusively with cases against senior officials.
The court typically only receives a few complaints per year, but received an unprecedented 90 complaints earlier this year due to the pandemic.
In July, he announced that he had rejected 44 of them, including more serious allegations such as manslaughter and endangering lives.
However, he ordered an investigation of some of the others, and Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said authorities were investigating “ possible criminal offenses ”.
Philippe had his home searched three months after being replaced as Prime Minister by Jean Castex, an official little known until the pandemic.
Other people who raided their homes included the head of the country’s national health service, Jerome Salomon, and a former government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye. Veran’s office was also raided.
Salomon abruptly canceled an early morning live interview on BFM-TV for “ personal reasons, ” according to the network.
French coronavirus cases have increased alarmingly in recent weeks, with more than 125,000 positive tests announced in the last week alone
As in most Western European countries, France’s daily balance sheet has risen from very low figures for the summer but remains even lower than at the height of the crisis in the spring.
Jean-Luc Reitzer, an opposition member in the French parliament who was hospitalized with a serious case of coronavirus, said he was shocked by the research.
“Do our citizens seriously believe that the shortages, which were real, were intentional? he told BFM.
Critics accuse the government of being too slow to roll out large-scale Covid-19 tests and downplay the importance of wearing masks in the first few weeks.
As in many countries, medical equipment was initially scarce and was restricted to health workers.
The Court of Justice of the Republic is the only French jurisdiction where government ministers can be tried for their actions during their mandate.
It was created following a major health scandal in the 1990s, but court trials are rare.
The investigation is separate from dozens of lawsuits filed in other French courts against nursing homes or other people accused of mismanaging the virus crisis.
Emmanuel Macron, pictured on Wednesday during a speech in which he announced a curfew for Paris and other cities, cannot be prosecuted during his tenure.
Macron himself cannot be targeted for prosecution during his tenure because sitting presidents enjoy immunity from prosecution.
The president, 42, yesterday announced a curfew for Paris and eight other cities after daily infection rates reached alarming new levels.
More than 125,000 people have been infected in the last week alone, with the average daily case now exceeding that in Spain.
Deaths have also increased from their low summer levels, with 104 more deaths on Wednesday bringing the total to 33,037.
Under curfew, people cannot leave their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. except for essential reasons.
“We need to act. We need to curb the spread of the virus, ” Macron said, saying daily cases need to be reduced to the thousands.
“We’re going to have to deal with this virus at least until the summer of 2021,” Macron said, saying “all scientists” were in agreement on this point.