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Paris Olympics chief faces legal probe over pay: source

By AFP
February 07, 2024

PARIS: French investigators have opened a legal probe into the pay of Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet, a legal source said on Tuesday, in an embarrassing development six months before the Games begin.

French President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet speaks during a press conference on December 20, 2023. AFP
French President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet speaks during a press conference on December 20, 2023. AFP

The enquiry by magistrates specialised in financial crimes began “last week” and will look into the manner in which Estanguet receives his pay as head of the organising committee, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The triple gold medal-winning Olympic canoeist had so far been spared the legal problems that have embroiled other members of the Paris Olympics organising team.

His annual remuneration of 270,000 euros ($290,000) before tax and bonuses was made public in 2018 after a furore over reports that he would receive almost double that amount.

But according to revelations in the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine last October, Estanguet uses his own company to bill the organising committee monthly, instead of drawing a salary.

The arrangement is to avoid a salary cap imposed on charities with the same status as the organising committee.

A spokesperson for the committee said it was “astonished” by news of the investigation, given that Estanguet´s package had been approved by the board and officials in the economy ministry.

The probe is a major blow for the 45-year-old, the public face of the Paris Olympics, who is seeking to focus attention on preparations for the sporting events at the July 26-August 11 Games.

The Olympics have been repeatedly tarnished by corruption in the past, either over the manner in which the Games were awarded or through the lucrative construction and services contracts that are part of the event.

The Paris organising committee was already the subject of three separate investigations into the possible misuse of public money and favouritism in the awarding of contracts.

The offices of the committee and Games infrastructure group Solideo have been searched by police, as have the homes of two other senior figures in the organising committee, Etienne Thobois and Edouard Donnelly.

Those cases revolve in part around sports management or events companies founded by senior Games staff before they started working for the Paris 2024 organising committee.

Around 20 different contracts are under the microscope, totalling tens of million of euros, one judicial source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

France´s Anti-Corruption Agency had flagged possible problems with Estanguet´s pay arrangement in a report in 2021 because of the organising committee´s status as a charity.