France: Modem president François Bayrou acquitted in the MEP assistants affair

Justice has ruled in the case of the Modem parliamentary assistants which concerned suspicions of embezzlement of European public funds. François Bayrou had been waiting for this court decision since the trial which took place at the end of 2023.

François Bayrou, former Minister of Justice, president of MoDem. RFI/Pierre-Rene Worms

By: RFI Follow


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It was relief on February 5 for

François Bayrou

: “

 the end of a seven-year nightmare

,” said the president of Modem as he left the courtroom. What was at stake was whether he was the organizer of a fraudulent scheme aimed at using European funds to pay parliamentary assistants who in reality worked for the centrist party in Paris.

Accusations that the president of Modem has always rejected outright, denying any embezzlement and the existence of fictitious jobs during the trial which took place in October and November 2023. François Bayrou was not the only one to be targeted in This affair, her political alter ego, Marielle de Sarnez, was subject to this procedure and around ten centrist executives and elected officials also appeared. The treasurer of MoDem and

former Minister of Justice, Michel Mercier

, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, a fine of 20,000 euros and two years of suspended ineligibility. And five former MEPs were also found guilty.

The UDF and the MoDem were respectively fined 150,000 euros, including 100,000 euros, and the MoDem was fined 350,000 euros, including 300,000. According to the courts, there was indeed misappropriation of public funds in this case, with parliamentary assistants having been paid from European Parliament funds to carry out tasks for the benefit of the parties. 

►Also read: The affair of the MoDem parliamentary assistants in 5 questions

Justice recognizes the existence of a system of embezzlement of public funds

However, for lack of evidence, the court acquitted the boss of the MoDem: “ 

it does not appear from any document

” in the file that Mr. Bayrou asked the five European deputies “

to fictitiously employ parliamentary assistants

”. “

It is very probable

” that the acts committed by three of the defendants were done with “

the authorization of Mr. Bayrou,

” he tempered. But, “

there is no proof of this authorization

”, indicated the magistrate.

François Bayrou at the end of the hearing expressed his sorrow for these parliamentarians by assuring their "probity" but above all, he regretted that this affair had caused a "

human waste... people died from it

", he declared, referring to

Marielle De Sarnez

, who died in January 2021. 

François Bayrou has made transparency and probity the cardinal values ​​of his political commitment and the accusations he was subjected to in the context of this affair were very difficult for him to bear. The opening of the investigation had also had serious consequences for him in 2017. It had forced him to leave the government in which he had been appointed as Minister of Justice only a few weeks earlier, just like Marielle de Sarnez, Minister of European Affairs for one month and four days. The decisive support of François Bayrou in Emmanuel Macron's campaign had made him the president's main political ally.

His appointment as High Commissioner for Planning in 2020 felt like a consolation prize. Since then, François Bayrou has been waiting for the court decision so, he hoped, that he could get back to things.

►Also read 


François Bayrou back at the forefront of the French political scene

A political future that is becoming clearer

This court decision comes as the executive prepares a new round of appointments to the government and as its name is circulating to replace the Minister of National Education, Sports and the Olympic Games,

Amélie Oudéa Castéra

, who provoked controversy from the start. taking office and whose exfiltration is planned. François Bayrou would be a solution to “save face”, argued an MP this weekend. He previously held this position between 1993 and 1997.

What is certain is that he is now free of a heavy burden that he was carrying around and which was handicapping his political action. Released, François Bayrou can think about the future and even the next presidential election. He has in fact never closed the door to a new attempt and the fact that Emmanuel Macron cannot stand again opens a door. In the potential presidential candidate category, there is also Marine Le Pen who will observe the release of François Bayrou as good news while she must be judged in the fall for facts of the same nature. 

►Also read: 

Assistants to FN MEPs: Marine Le Pen and her party will be tried for embezzlement of public funds


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