Arrested French official suspected of spying for North Korea

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By Associated Press  with NBC News World News
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

PARIS — France's domestic intelligence agency is investigating an employee of the French Senate who is suspected of spying for North Korea, a judicial official said Tuesday.

Senate president Gerard Larcher, informed of the investigation, authorized a search of the office of Benoit Quennedey, chief administrator for Architecture, Patrimony and Gardens, Larcher's office said. The statement added that the suspect was formally suspended from his job while the probe continues.

Quennedey was detained Sunday in the investigation — opened in March — into "collecting and delivering information to a foreign power susceptible to harming fundamental interests of the nation," the judicial official said.

A security official also confirmed he was suspected of spying for North Korea.

Both officials weren't authorized to be publicly named discussing the sensitive matter.

Publishing house Delga said on its website that Quennedey traveled to the Koreas in his role as the head of the French-Korean Friendship Association, and wrote a book and essays about North Korea.

Details of the case weren't immediately available.

Quennedey has made a number of TV appearances as an expert on North Korea, including on Quotidien, which revealed the scandal and showed an old clip in which he said he said he had traveled to North Korea seven times since 2005.

His mother, Brigitte Quennedey, told Europe 1 radio that she was "completely stunned" by the news. "He is someone very reserved. He's been thrown to the wolves when we still don't know the why or how."

She said she had dropped him off at the Dijon train station Sunday evening after a weekend family visit, and not heard from him since then.