By: V4 Agency
Hundreds of people were fined after a restaurant in the capital was raided by police over the weekend. The mayor of the country’s second largest city is also accused of having attended an illegal dinner, but the politician denies any wrongdoing.
A report aired by the French M6 channel on 1 April – claiming that illegal dinners organised in the capital’s restaurants were also attended by government politicians – has provoked a general outcry. A few days after the interview Pierre-Jean Chalencon, the organiser of the alleged dinners, described the report as an April Fool’s Day joke.
Nevertheless, the report has triggered a virtual avalanche in the media, which also caught the attention of some high-profile politicians. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced that he had ordered an investigation into the matter to apprehend and bring to justice both the organisers and the attendees of the alleged dinners.
The dinners’ organiser specifically mentioned government spokesman Gabriel Attal, whom he called a friend, saying Mr Attal also attended one such dinner. Citizenship Minister Marlene Schiappa stressed that, although she knows from a reliable source that the spokesman had received an invitation, she also knows that he had rejected it.
Christophe Leroy, the chef implicated in connection with the alleged dinners also weighed in on. He said he did not serve any ministers in the past one year, but he did not deny that he had established a private club of sorts in his home, where he regularly receives dinner guests. He showed BFMTV the scene of the dinners, with a bar and tables for the guests. The chef denied any wrongdoing, saying that he had welcomed his guests at his home, where he provided ample room for social distancing.
Paris is not the only city that has come into focus because of illegal restaurants and clubs. Michèle Rubirola, deputy mayor of the second largest French city Marseille, also found herself in an awkward situation after being accused of attending illegal dinners. Citing a reliable source, independent media provider Blast has claimed that the deputy mayor had dinner and drinks with others in a local restaurant without a mask or physical distancing. When she was contacted by the France Bleu news portal, she denied ever participating one, saying her driver takes her home from work every evening and she spends the weekends at home with her family. If evidence is found that the deputy mayor did take part in clandestine dinners, strict decisions must be made, the mayor of Marseille’s 11th and 12th districts Sylvain Souvestre (of the Republicans party) wrote on Twitter.
Although there is no concrete evidence yet of high-ranking politicians and city leaders attending any illegal dinners, it is a fact that several such events had been organised, as police evacuated more than a hundred people from a restaurant in Paris over the weekend. According to press reports, several of those present in the restaurant refused to show their ID cards and were eventually fiend. The prefect took to Twitter to report on the incident, saying that participants have been fined for failing to comply with pandemic rules and the organisers have been taken into custody.
Since the end of October, police have carried out 7345 inspections in restaurants in the capital and imposed fines in some 300 instances, according to the daily Le Figaro newspaper.