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French civil servant investigated for treason over North Korea spying claim - source

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French civil servant investigated for treason over North Korea spying claim - source

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PARIS (Reuters) - A French civil servant was placed under formal investigation for treason over allegations of having tried to pass sensitive government information to North Korea, a judicial source said on Thursday.

Benoit Quennedey, senior administrator in the department of architecture, heritage and gardens at the Senate, the country's upper house of parliament, and president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association (AAFC), was placed in custody on Monday and his offices searched.

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He is suspected of gathering and delivering to a foreign power information likely to harm national interests, the source said, adding that the French domestic security and intelligence agency DGSI was handling the investigation.

France has no official diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, one of only two European Union countries along with Estonia to cut ties with North Korea until it abandons its nuclear weapons programme and improves its human rights record.

It was unclear what information Quennedey may have divulged. Calls to North Korea's UNESCO office in Paris were not answered.

Under French law, the placing of a suspect under formal investigation means that prosecutors believe they have "serious or consistent evidence" that could result in prosecution.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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