French investigators have opened a legal probe into the pay of Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet, according to reports Tuesday, in an embarrassing development six months before the Olympic Games begin.
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, a source from media 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 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 Enchainé 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 26 July – 11 August Games.
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.
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The offices of the committee and Olympic 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 Olympic 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.
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.
The spokesperson said that his pay had been approved by the organisation’s pay committee, composed of independent experts, and approved by the Economic and Financial Controller General in the economy ministry.
Given that Estanguet usually chairs the board, it had met without him when discussing his remuneration, the spokesperson said.
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Despite the legal problems, the Paris Games appear to be on track, with almost all of the main building work finished and the budget over-spend relatively small compared with previous games.
This week will see the committee unveil the medal designs, while a brand new venue which is set to host the basketball and rhythmic gymnastics will open its doors at the weekend.
The athletes’ village is set to be inaugurated by President Emmanuel Macron on 29 February.