French energy minister recuses herself from Perenco oil dossiers

FILE PHOTO: French Minister for Energy Transition Agnes Pannier-Runacher attends a press conference on the energy situation in France and Europe, in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher will recuse herself from making decisions in any dossiers involving her father's former employer, Anglo-French oil company Perenco, the French government said in a decree published on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will instead handle any dossiers related to Perenco, to oil services group EP2C and to defence firm Defense Conseil International (DCI), the decree, published in France's Journal Officiel, stated.

The decree specified the rule had been proposed by Pannier-Runacher.

France's public standards watchdog (HATVP) had looked into media reports about assets held by the minister's children after investigative media reported that Pannier-Runacher's father had made her three children shareholders of a company with assets of 1.2 million euros ($1.2 million) with the aim of avoiding inheritance tax.

The reports said Pannier-Runacher had not declared the existence of this company to HATVP when she was appointed a minister.

The watchdog said later on Tuesday that the minister had not violated any rules linked to required declarations, in accordance with Pannier-Runacher's own comments on the case.

"Following these exchanges (with the minister) and additional investigations, the HATVP found that Mrs Pannier-Runacher had not failed to fulfil her reporting obligations", the HATVP said.

It added that the decree published on Tuesday would allow avoiding any potential conflicts of interest going forward.

Pannier-Runacher has denied all allegations of misconduct but last week in parliament she said that in 2016, her father had wanted to prepare his succession via direct transmission to his grandchildren and that this was set up via a French company, paying French taxes and in respect of all French legislation.

Campaigners said that while she was not legally required to report her children's assets, the company's links with the oil industry created a conflict of interest, since Pannier-Runacher, as energy minister, is tasked with reducing France's reliance on fossil fuels.

Pannier-Runacher has also denied all links with Perenco.

($1 = 0.9928 euro)

(Reporting by GV De Clercq, additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Gareth Jones and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)