He insists he did nothing wrong – but French conservative UMP opposition leader Jean-Francois Copé, caught up in a major political scandal, is resigning as a result of pressure from both inside and outside the party.
It follows a police search of UMP headquarters in Paris, amid claims that in 2012, the party ordered fake invoices to cover spiralling costs in then President Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed re-election campaign.
Bogus bills were allegedly used to mask the fact that official expenditure had gone beyond a legal ceiling.
A search was also carried out at offices of the public relations company Bygmalion which organised campaign events. Earlier, its lawyer called a news conference in which he made explosive claims about millions of euros worth of bogus invoices.
“At the request of the UMP, the Bygmalion company had to draw up invoices for the UMP, whereas they should have been for the body in charge of financing the campaign for the candidacy of Monsieur Sarkozy in 2012,” said lawyer Patrick Maisonneuve.
“They are indeed falsified invoices.”
Senior UMP official Jerome Lavrilleux, who has worked closely with Copé, then went on live television and, with tears in his eyes, acknowledged that “anomalies” had occurred to cover campaign costs . But he insisted that this was known neither by Sarkozy nor Copé, two of whose friends founded Bygmalion.
The affair has been a long-running talking point in the French media – as has a likely return to politics of ex- President Sarkozy. He now also faces difficult questions which some say could jeopardise any comeback.
Copé‘s position was already weakened after the UMP was beaten by the far-right National Front in Sunday’s European elections.