Black Monday for the Government of France. The general secretary of the Elysée, alexis kohlwas charged on September 23 for an alleged crime of illegal conflict of interest with the multinational Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), one of the giants of the naval sector. This was announced this Monday afternoon by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, a few hours after it was known this morning that the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupon-Morettiwill be judged by another affair of conflict of interest. Although he does not make statements to the media, Kohler represents an essential piece in the governmental machinery of the French presidency. To the point that he is known as the “shadow vice president” of Emmanuel Macron.
The French Justice had Kohler in its sights since 2018, but had not charged him until now. The anti-corruption prosecutor suspects that the general secretary of the Elysium -a fundamental position in the French presidential system- incurred a crime conflict of interest in the past. Between 2008 and 2010, Kohler served as deputy director of the State Participation Agency (APE) and, therefore, sat on the board of directors of the Saint-Nazaire shipyards, the most important in the neighboring country. His main client was the Swiss company MSCfounded by a first sister of Kohler’s mother and chaired by her uncle.
Then, Kohler participated in five votes favorable to MSC and three in the board of directors of the port of Le Havre, according to the digital newspaper. media part. A few years later, when he served as cabinet director at the Ministry of Economy, he received numerous emails about matters related to the Swiss multinational. After leaving Bercy in 2016, he worked as CFO of MSC, with a monthly salary of 28,000 euros. And, in fact, he combined that position with the direction of Macron’s campaign for the 2017 presidential elections.
“The goal of our initiative is not to harm Kohler, but rather to combat revolving doors from which senior officials benefit”, judge Eric Alt, vice-president of the Anticor association that denounced this incident, explained to El Periódico de Catalunya in May. affair before the courts. The shadow of the links between the number two of the Elysée and MSC also hovers over one of the most sui generis of the liberal Macron’s presidency: the nationalization of the Saint-Nazaire shipyards, announced in July 2017 and which paralyzed the acquisition of that infrastructure by the Italian state company Fincantieri, a transaction opposed by the Swiss multinational.
Macron’s right hand
After the announcement this Monday of his indictment, Kohler reacted with the publication of a statement by his lawyer in which “he strongly answers having committed any crime.” “Without considering numerous elements in his favor, Kohler has been charged with an unlawful conflict of interest for acts dating back more than ten years,” he added. Since the case became known, the general secretary of the Elysee had defended himself by assuring that he notified his superiors of his family ties with MSC and that he never participated in decisions that affected the Swiss group.
Although the fact of being charged does not imply guilt, this announcement weakens the figure of Macron’s main collaborator. Since the appointment of the centrist leader in August 2014 as economy minister, the two have worked hand in hand and have been inseparable. Despite the judicial shadow that hangs over him, the president has not wanted to separate from his right handwhich generates great suspicion in sectors of macronismo due to its power in the shadows.
In fact, Kohler influenced the decision in May to appoint Elizabeth Borne as prime minister, although the liberal leader contemplated other names. She is also in charge of relations between the Elysee and the big businessmen. An essential piece, but one that is splashed by the corruption. And this weakens the initial promise of macronismo to regenerate and dignify politics.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.