Macron campaign accounts cleared by French audit body

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech as he is sworn-in for a second term as president after his re-election, during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron's 2022 election campaign finances, which came under scrutiny amid a wider controversy linked to U.S. consultancy McKinsey's ties to his government, were cleared by an audit commission, the body said on Friday.

The independent state body said it had received two tips about alleged irregularities in Macron's re-election campaign accounts which cited "irregular" assistance from unspecified consultancies, but said they appeared to be unfounded.

"As things stands, (the commission) has no evidence to call into question the content and scope of (Macron's) statement", the audit commission said, adding that Macron had denied the accusations when the body questioned him about it.

The decision provides some relief to Macron, even though it is entirely separate from an ongoing investigation carried out by financial prosecutors and focusing on whether his government has handed out contracts to consulting firms in return for the pro bono work their employees did in Macron's campaign.

Although there has so far been no evidence of law-breaking from either Macron or his government on this issue, the so-called "McKinsey affair" has been used by political opponents to portray the French leader as in cahoots with big business.

Government ministers were forced to admit they "went too far" in the government's use of consulting firms, after the huge sums paid to such firms during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted outrage and parliamentary investigations.

The judicial investigation into the use of consulting firms is the closest to have come to Macron, who swept to power promising to clean up politics in France.

Macron has said his campaign accounts had been flawless and that, as president, he does not directly deal with public tenders, adding: "The core of the investigation is not about me."

With his campaign accounts now cleared and confirmation he did not break the legal ceiling applied to presidential election spending, Macron will get back about 10.4 million euros ($11.30 million) from the state towards his campaign spending.

All the other contenders in the 2022 presidential election had their campaign accounts cleared by the state body.

($1 = 0.9203 euros)

(Reporting by Nicolas Delame, writing by Tassilo Hummel; editing by Michel Rose, William Maclean)

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