The leader of France’s conservative opposition UMP party, Jean-François Copé, resigned today after police raided his offices in an investigation over a massive fraud scandal involving former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France 24 reports that the entire UMP front bench now also looks set to resign in a move that will ensure the French centre-right is as discredited as the governing Socialists, and further boost the insurgent Front National.
Bygmalion, an event organising company, has accused the party of ordering £9 million ($15 million) worth of fake invoices to cover the cost of Sarkozy’s failed re-election campaign. The allegations look set to end any hope Mr Sarkozy has of returning to power in 2017.
Senator Gérard Larcher told the AFP news agency that the party will be taken over by three former prime ministers until a new leadership is elected by a party congress in October.
Jérôme Lavrilleux, former deputy campaign director for Sarkozy, admitted on live television that there were ‘anomalies’ in the former president’s 2012 accounts. A tearful Mr Lavrilleux told BFM TV: “There have been anomalies. There was no wrongdoing, there was a terrible spiral, a train going at high speed and people who should have pulled the emergency alarm and didn’t, and I was probably one of them.”
This is the latest in a series of scandals involving the former president. He has also been accused of receiving undeclared cash from former Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi, and was last year cleared of personally accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman.
The resignations also come just days after the UMP lost out in the European Elections to the Front National, who topped the poll amid widespread disillusion with France’s two main parties.