François Fillon’s reshuffle raises questions in the private sector and particularly in Russian companies. The former prime minister was questioned by the National Assembly’s inquiry committee on foreign interference on Tuesday.
He said he was “not directly affected by Russian interference” and that his “professional career” in the private sector was “about me”. “In my 36 years of public life, we have not been able to find a single action that was attacked by a foreign power,” insists Nicolas Sarkozy’s former head of government for nearly 5 years.
The former Republican presidential candidate confirmed his brief presence on the boards of directors of Russian companies Sibur (petrochemicals) and Zarubesneft (hydrocarbons) before he resigned after the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine. “There is no friction between Zarubezhneft and France, (it is) a company that does not operate in France”, but “mainly in Asia”, he defended himself.
“I attended a council meeting with Zarubezhneft” and “a video conference meeting with Sipur due to Covid” before I resigned from both these boards of directors after the invasion of Ukraine, he recounted. I resigned earlier,” he repeats several times.
However, he admitted that the companies he worked for, whether Russian or American, hired me for my experience as a former prime minister and my view of the world. Sarthe’s former deputy also notes that “it’s not just my address book” that these companies are interested in.
“I am a private and independent person”
François Filon, during this commission of inquiry led by the National Rally (RN), wanted to prove that Russia was not another country involved in the interference. “Foreign interference, yes, I have encountered it, and most of the time, it has come from a friendly and ally country called the United States. I was listening to President Sarkozy for five years by the NSA,” noted the US National Security Agency.
François Fillon has also referred to “Chinese espionage” or “interference from countries like Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, through religious leaders to provide direct voting mechanisms during French elections”. , says the former politician.
He then talked about retraining in the private sector. I retired from public life in 2017. I started a professional career to become a private person,” he recalls. “I naturally respect the laws of the republic and I am not accountable to anyone,” he underlined about his advisory activities. “I’m a private person and independent of my activities, and if I want to sell rillettes in Red Square, I’ll do it,” he insists.
It remains to be seen whether he convinces the commission to complete the process, which has been in the works for several weeks, by early June. The latter, however, was controversial in the Assembly. Indeed, other parliamentary groups have criticized the far-right for its “pivot” strategy in the face of allegations of closeness between the RN and the Kremlin. Doubts raised by other elected members of the Commission during questioning during this hearing.
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