Emmanuel Macron’s high-profile public accounts minister has denied using his political position to gain sexual favours, dismissing a second complaint from a woman this week as "slanderous".
Paris prosecutors launched a probe on Tuesday after a woman filed a complaint alleging that Gerald Darmanin, 35, had abused his powers while mayor of the northern town of Tourcoing in 2015 and 2016.
The ambitious Right-winger, who is part of Mr Macron’s inner circle, was questioned by police earlier this month over separate allegations that he pressured a former prostitute into sex after she asked for help with a legal problem in 2009.
The minister responded by saying he had first heard of this "new slanderous accusation against me" on the website of Le Point magazine, which broke the story of the second complaint – later confirmed by other media.
"I don’t know the person or what I’m accused of," he told La Voix du Nord newspaper. "I’ve done nothing wrong… I’m calm, concentrating on my work as a minister and I have confidence in the justice system."
He denies those allegations too, saying he was a "nobody" at the time, but has admitted to having a reputation as a flirt and to "sending a few persistent text messages”.
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The government is standing by Mr Darmanin and Nicolas Hulot, its star environment minister who faced allegations last week that he raped the granddaughter of former French president Francois Mitterrand in 1997.
The allegations were never investigated. Mr Hulot, a former celebrity environmentalist, denied them.
The claims have put President Emmanuel Macron in a difficult position given his focus on women’s rights which he has promised to make a "national cause.”
They come amid a fraught debate in France over sexual harassment and abuse in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and where to place the cursor over consent.
The Hulot furore has led to soul-searching over whether the media overstepped the mark given the lack of legal action relating to the allegations.
Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, said as far as the government was concerned: “While there are no charges, there is no reason for a minister to resign.”
Speaking to journalists this week, Mr Macron warned against a “Republic of suspicion”.