Double-disgraced MEP disputes €150k staff-salary clawback
A former French MEP caught with his hands in his trousers, AND in the till, is disputing the latter in the EU courts this week.
The European Parliament has demanded just shy of 150 000 euros back from Robert Rochefort, in salaries intended for people working for him. EP lawyers say Rochefort hasn't proven the recipients were doing parliament-related work.
The court case is the long tail of a wider scandal that caused a stir in France in 2017, when the Paris prosecutor began an investigation into claims the centrist Mouvement Democrate (MoDem) had diverted funds from its MEPs' staff budgets for national party workers. That overarching case, which has embroiled some much bigger names than Rochefort, is rumbling on. The EU's antifraud office OLAF is also looking into the matter.
But Rochefort is persisting in his defense of payments that went through his office, and had his day in court on Monday in his appeal of the parliament's payback demand.
According to EU court documents prepared for Monday's hearing, Rochefort accuses the parliament of relying on a "presumption" that the local French party workers weren't conducting EU business, and that Parliament authorities had flipped the burden of proof.
His lawyers also claim that it would be hard to provide a paper trail to prove the contracts were for parliamentary matters, as "the work of the local assistant had been mainly oral."
It is at this juncture that the reader is invited to make their own puerile joke on the basis of that quote, by way of a lurid segue into a reminder as to another questionable chapter in Rochefort's past.
He was once caught masturbating in a DIY store.
Yup, you read that right.
N.B. the 'Do-It-Yourself' gag doesn't work in French. But sure, it works in English. So you're welcome, you've just made a second filthy joke all by yourself.
He admitted to the facts and accepted a penal sanction (I said 'penal', you child. Third), was binned from his positions of responsibility in the party, but curiously was left to see out the remainder of his term as MEP.
You'd think the Bricolage Branleur wouldn't want to draw any further attention to himself, having drifted into the background noise of the French scandal, and successfully dropped off the radar altogether in EU circles.
But apparently he's OK reminding us about how he got caught out rewarding his staff on the sly (fourth).