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France opens probe into secret parties amid pandemic

Ministers allegedly attended underground dinner parties as restaurants remain closed; new COVID-19 cases top 67,700

Shweta Desai   | 05.04.2021
France opens probe into secret parties amid pandemic file photo

PARIS 

The Paris public prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation Sunday into alleged secret five-star dinners attended by government ministers in violation of coronavirus lockdown and health regulations, French media reported.

Prosecutor Remy Heitz launched the probe following the broadcast of local news outlet M6 Info’s news expose on the underground luxury parties organized in Paris. The Paris police have also opened a separate investigation on Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin’s instructions to verify the organizers and participants of the clandestine parties.

The report was televised on a day that fresh cases of COVID-19 topped 67,794, according to data from the public health authorities -- the highest number of positive cases registered in the last 24 hours so far this year. A total of 5,341 patients remained admitted to intensive care units and the number of new fatalities recorded was 185.

The news report showed footage of the dinners with guests enjoying lavish spreads by top chefs in a price range of 150-500 euros ($176-$588) without any restrictions on masks or social distancing rules.

France is grappling with a third wave of the pandemic and restaurants and cafes remain shut across the country. The famed French hospitality and food industry has downed shutters since October to prevent people from eating in confined spaces and to control the spread of the virus.

The footage also included an anonymous source claiming that the restrictions and penalties imposed by the administration of President Emmanuel Macron on restaurants were laughable as several clandestine parties are being organized across Paris and attended by the ministers themselves. If found guilty, organizers can face a penalty of up to 15,000 euros ($17,641) and 135 euros ($158) for attendants.

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