PARIS (AP) — A French investigation into a Las Vegas tech party is putting new pressure on President Emmanuel Macron’s labor minister — and possibly the president himself — as they pursue difficult reforms to French work rules.
The Paris prosecutor’s office opened a formal judicial inquiry Friday into suspected irregularities in the organization of a costly, high-profile event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show that Macron headlined when he was a French government minister.
The inquiry is for “favoritism,” but it doesn’t name a suspected perpetrator yet, leaving it to investigators to determine later who might be at fault.
The company tasked with organizing the “French Tech Night” event, advertising firm Havas, is believed to have won the contract without undergoing open tender procedures, among other suspected problems.
It’s unclear whether Macron himself was aware and the investigation doesn’t target him directly. It is problematic, however, for his labor minister, Muriel Penicaud.
Penicaud was working for an agency under the economy ministry — then headed by Macron — that reportedly signed off on the Havas contract.
Penicaud has acknowledged a “procedural error” in the process but says she then launched an internal and external audit and addressed the issue. She and Havas didn’t immediately comment Friday on the judicial inquiry.
Macron used the trip to promote French technology startups, a pillar of his strategy for boosting the French economy.
Another pillar is the labor law that Penicaud is spearheading this summer, which would make it easier to hire and fire workers and reduce the power of unions.