France’s ex-prime minister Edouard Philippe is being investigated by a French top court over his management of the COVID-19 crisis.
The announcement came just hours after he resigned as part of a government reshuffle. He will now take up his former post as Le Havre’s mayor following last week’s municipal elections.
He is accused of “failing to fight disaster” in a case opened by the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), the only French court that can judge government members over their actions while in office.
Philippe could face up to two years in prison plus fines, if he is convicted.
He said he “will bring to the investigation commission all the answers and information necessary” for the understanding of his actions and that of his government.
France’s health minister Olivier Véran and his predecessor Agnès Buzyn, who had stepped down in February to run as Paris mayor, are being investigated too.
Véran said on Twitter it was an ‘honour’ to serve in Philippe’s cabinet after the PM’s resignation.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron has not commented on this specific issue involving Philippe, but he thanked the former prime minister on Friday for his work during his three-year term.
The case was opened after COVID-19 patients, doctors, prison personnel, police officers and others had filed an unprecedented 90 complaints to the Court of Justice of the Republic from mid-March, notably over shortages of masks and other equipment.
The court usually only sees a few complaints a year. Of the 90 complaints, 44 were dropped by the institution, while 37 are still under examination.
France has reported the fifth-highest number of coronavirus deaths worldwide, over 29,800.