Alexandre Benalla, former security aide to Emmanuel Macron, has once again found himself at the epicentre of a scandal while the French president struggles to cope with the Yellow Vests, Le Monde reported.
According to the French media outlet, Benalla visited Chad and Cameroon for high-level meetings this month, while the investigative website Mediapart claimed that he had travelled on a French diplomatic passport.
The reports suggest that Benalla met with Chadian President Idriss Deby, just days before Macron himself visited the African country.
Commenting on the reports, Benalla said that his trip was private and he was accompanying a “foreign business delegation” promoting major Mideast businesses, while Macron’s office told AFP that the former aide had not informed the president of his journey until afterwards.
When Macron arrived in Chad on December 22, he reportedly told Deby that Benalla was in “no way an unofficial or official intermediary”.
“Only the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the diplomatic adviser to the President, Philippe Etienne, and Franck Paris, the president’s Africa adviser, are representing the head of state”, Macron told Deby, according to his office’s response to Le Monde.
On 22 December, Macron’s office Chief Patrick Strzoda wrote a letter to Benalla to warn him against revealing any confidential information he learned while working with the president.
“Let us be clear: we forbid you from claiming you have any kind of recommendation or tacit support from the presidency. With regard to your current personal activities, we ask you to ensure they are conducted with strict respect for the confidentiality and ethical responsibilities of your time in this office”, Le Monde cited the letter.
Benalla’s name first hit the headlines in summer, after a video of him beating a May Day protester in Paris while wearing a police riot helmet was unearthed online. He now faces charges of assault, impersonating an officer, and illicitly receiving CCTV footage of the May Day incident, although he denied any wrongdoing.