French McKinsey investigation widened to cover election campaigns

<span>Photograph: Michel Spingler/AP</span>
Photograph: Michel Spingler/AP

France’s financial prosecutor has opened an investigation into the role of consultancy groups including McKinsey in the 2017 and 2022 French election races, when Emmanuel Macron was elected and then won a second term.

The financial prosecutor’s office confirmed that its current investigation into potential tax fraud by the US-based consultancy giant McKinsey had been widened to include consulting firms’ possible involvement in the two election races. Investigators are looking into allegations of “improperly keeping campaign accounts”, the “undervaluing of the role of consulting firms” and “favouritism”.

The prosecutor did not name any politician or party as a target of the inquiry and did not confirm a report in the Le Parisien daily that the investigation focused on Macron’s campaign.

The centrist president’s office said it had taken note of the investigation and that prosecutors needed to carry out their work “in all independence”.

Macron swept to power promising to clean up politics in France. French presidents enjoy immunity while in office.

An investigation does not necessarily lead to a prosecution or imply guilt. It can take years before such investigations are either shelved or go to trial.

The financial prosecutor said: “Following several reports and complaints from elected officials and individuals, a judicial investigation was opened on 20 October 2022”.

Just as Macron was running for re-election earlier this year, the French senate, which has a majority on the right, condemned what it called the “sprawling phenomenon” of dozens of private and international firms being hired to advise the government.

The opposition had accused Macron’s government of spending too much on international consultancies that pay little or no tax in France.

The initial investigation into McKinsey – called “the McKinsey affair” in the French press – was triggered after the senate alleged in March that the firm used a system of “tax optimisation” through its Delaware-based parent company and was not paying enough corporate taxes in France.

McKinsey has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said it “respects French tax rules that apply to it”.

Reuters contributed to this report