A former aide to Christine Lagarde has put himself on the fast track to a criminal charge after allegedly trying to shift the route of a new TGV train line 1.8 miles away from his mother’s garden in south-western France.
François-Gilles Egretier, who was a technical adviser to Ms Lagarde when she was French Finance Minister, has said that he acted out of “filial love” and in order to ensure that the high-speed rail project in south-western France would affect fewer people.
But the 15 people now in the way of the line between Bordeaux and Spain became suspicious and launched a complaint. Mr Egretier was placed under investigation on Monday on suspicion of showing “unlawful interest” in the track.
Three years ago, the French rail network, Réseau Ferré de France, decided the new route would travel through the little village of Uchacq-et-Parentis in the Landes region, affecting 60 properties including the garden of Mr Egretier’s mother who has a residence at Lachinoy.
Three months later, RFF abruptly changed its mind and moved the route 3km to the north, sparing the property of Mr Egretier’s mother but affecting the 15 other residents.
The incident came to the attention of French justice when it was mentioned in the local gazette, according to the Sud-Ouest newspaper. The mayor of Uchacq-et-Parentis publicly thanked Ms Egretier for acting as “our Paris branch”.
French investigating magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke, who specialises in financial corruption allegations, believes that there is a case to be made that Mr Egretier used his position as a public official for private gain. As Finance Minister, Ms Lagarde had direct responsibility over RFF.
Mr Egretier is suspected of having alerted the Transport Minister, and of contacting the head of RFF who organised a meeting into the rail track route which was subsequently modified. If the charge is confirmed, it carries a five-year prison sentence and a possible fine of up to €75,000.