The “Duck”, which is shaking political and economic circles with its startling revelations, sees its financial probity questioned internally for the first time.
The first blow – a complaint – came from Christophe Nobili, one of the journalists behind the revelations during the 2017 presidential campaign on suspicion of fictitious employment concerning Penelope Fillon with her husband François Fillon.
Mr. Nobili suspected the companion of a former cartoonist and administrator of the satirical weekly of having benefited for two decades from a salary from the newspaper without ever having worked there.
The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed to AFP on Saturday that it had opened an investigation for “abuse of corporate assets” and “concealment of abuse of corporate assets”.
According to Le Monde, three million euros in salary would have been unduly paid.
Faced with the controversy, the administration committee of the newspaper denied in Wednesday’s edition having resorted to a fictitious job, defending an assembly which, although “acrobatic”, “harmed” no one.
In this case, it is the hiring in 1996 of the wife of designer André Escaro, now 94 years old, when the latter wanted to retire, to the chagrin of the newspaper, according to the committee .
Arguing that he cannot combine employment and retirement, the cartoonist finally continues to sketch the news for the weekly when the management finally accepts that his wife supports him.
“This is how Edith was hired, in support of André, who obviously no longer received a penny”, to produce “more than 8,000” drawings which are “nothing fictitious” for 26 years, until they were retired in June, according to the report.
– Conflict of generations –
“It was perhaps not the best place for a pro domo plea, in fact written by the main interested parties”, the president of the publishing company of the weekly, Michel Gaillard, 78, and his deputy general manager Nicolas Brimo, 71, reacted on Wednesday to a dozen employees of the publication in a press release sent to AFP and Le Monde.
Indignant at the “refusal” which was opposed to them “to insert a text in response” to that published by the administration committee, the signatories recall that “French social law does not provide for remunerating an employee instead of another”.
They also deplore “that the term of fault, recognized by the management during the editorial conference of August 29, does not appear (…) in the plea published in one”.
Asked by AFP, Mr. Brimo did not wish to comment on a press release of which he had “not been aware”, while the leaders of the company were not “all heard within the framework of the Preliminary investigation”.
However, he recalls that the text was signed by the six members of the administration committee.
This public disavowal of part of the editorial staff, however, testifies to a growing unease within the newspaper for several years, according to one of the signatories interviewed by AFP, between “an aging management” which “twitches on its power and does not prepare for the future” and a new generation of employees.
This had already shaken up its leaders by creating a union section for the first time at the end of 2021.
This same signatory evokes “a paternalistic management” and opaque on the social level. There is also a “great dissatisfaction of a new generation much less paid than the old”, he adds.
“We have had a tandem at the head of the newspaper since 1992 which has no plans to hand over” and has “appropriated the newspaper”, estimates this source, for whom the arrival of a new management “could be a solution”.