The Paris Prosecutor’s Office has reopened a preliminary investigation into allegations of rape made against the Budget Minister, Gérald Darmanin, Le Monde reports. A preliminary investigation is a automatically triggered when a sexual assault or rape complaint is filed in order to find out if there is sufficient basis to open a formal investigation.
A previous preliminary investigation into the same case was closed in July last year because the complainant did not attend a summons from the Prosecutor’s Office. The minister, who has denied the charges, has filed a complaint for slander.
The case dates back to 2009 when Darmanin was working as a legal advisor in the Parisian offices of the conservative UMP party (now Republicans) of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy. The complainant, Sophie Spatz, approached him looking for his help in a legal case she was involved in. According to Spatz, Darmanin suggested that they go out to dinner to discuss the case.
Spatz told Le Monde that although she was uncomfortable with the proposal, she decided to accept. During dinner, he assured her that he would “do everything possible” to help her. Afterwards they went back to a hotel where she alleges the rape took place.
After the nomination of Darmanin as finance minister, in May 2017, Spatz decided to file a complaint; however, the investigation was shelved when she failed to testify.
Earlier this month Spatz wrote again to the Prosecutor’s Office, saying that she was now willing to testify. The preliminary investigation was automatically reopened on January 22, and three days later Spatz testified. Darmanin has not commented publicly on the allegations, although his lawyer told France Info that “the accusations are nothing more than an attempt to harm” his client.
Although Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has said that Darmanin has “all his confidence”, he also recalled that “the rules to belonging to the Government are known”, in reference to the condition of “irreproachability” that President Emmanuel Macron imposes on the members of his cabinet.