French President Emmanuel Macron’s former top security aide, Alexandre Benalla, rejected accusations on Monday of lying earlier in front of the Senate Law Commission. “I didn’t lie to you on September 19 when I told you said [sic] that my passports were at the Elysee”, Benalla said under oath, as cited by France 24, on Monday.
According to Benalla’s lawyers, he was charged at Friday’s court hearing with unauthorised use of diplomatic documents, during a number of trips abroad. Benalla claimed that he had returned the passports shortly after his sacking last year, but they were handed back to him by an Elysee official last October.
“I was informed that these passports had not been disabled, otherwise I wouldn’t have travelled using these passports”, Benalla, who says he has been working legitimately as a business consultant, pointed out.
“And I do acknowledge here, on my part, a lack of discernment perhaps”. He went on to note there is no connection between his former Elysee role and recent foreign trips, but he “has informed members” of the presidential palace, though providing no details about their identities or functions.
Speaking before a Senate committee looking into the case, Macron's chief of staff, Patrick Strzoda, stated last week that Benalla had used diplomatic passports “some 20 times” over the past few months, including trips to Africa for meetings with top officials, such as Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno.
Benalla said that his trip to Chad in particular was private and that 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. Benalla, 27, was taken into police custody last Thursday and charged over his continued use of diplomatic passports after being fired.
However, the charges don’t include forgery, his lawyers said, adding that it is an allegation voiced personally by Strzoda. This is the second time Benalla has recently entered the spotlight, as he already faces criminal charges after he was caught on camera beating May Day protesters with a police helmet on his head.
Despite eventually being sacked on 1 August, the incident caused a storm among Macron’s political opponents and the general public after it emerged that Macron’s office knew about the case, but nevertheless kept Benalla in his position. Formerly a bouncer, 27-year-old Benalla began working as a bodyguard for the French president, but was further promoted to a high-profile Elysee security role in May 2017.