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Benalla does have a diplomatic passport. The Quai d'Orsay confirms … but opens a series of questions

(B2) The French Foreign Minister has just largely confirmed the information published by Mediapart on the fact that Alexandre Benalla, former advisor to the Elysée, responsible for the security of President Emmanuel Macron, benefited from a diplomatic passport

This confirmation came Thursday evening (December 27), through a communicated from the spokesperson for the Quai d'Orsay. Or very quickly after publication of the article by our colleague (this morning). Which shows the concern that this 'new Benalla affair' is taking. But it poses as many questions as it answers…

The minimized effect of the diplomatic passport

Le Quai first recalls the principle of using the diplomatic passport.

« The diplomatic passport is a travel document, intended to facilitate the travel of its holder, within the framework of his official functions. It does not confer on its holder any immunity, whether the latter is on French territory or abroad. »

A very minimalist vision of the passport, the issuance of which is governed by a decree (n ° 2021-20 of January 6, 2012). Certainly diplomatic immunity in a foreign country is not attached to this passport, but it constitutes a serious presumption. Its possession makes it possible to avoid any more serious checks (of identity or baggage) at a customs or border post and facilitates passage.

Two passports, not one

The spokesperson for the Quai d'Orsay then confirmed that A. Benalla had not one, but two diplomatic passports. And that a procedure was initiated to return them (without effect).

« The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs asked Mr. Benalla, by registered letter of July 26, 2018, to return the two diplomatic passports in his possession (issued respectively on September 20, 2017 and May 24, 2018). This letter was withdrawn on August 6, 2018, by a person with power of attorney from Mr. Benalla. In addition, he had undertaken in writing on May 23, 2018 to return these documents at the end of the functions which justified the attribution. »

We can note that a second passport was issued after the events of May 1 when the Elysée advisor came to “observe” an opposition demonstration. Event known to the Elysée since the person concerned was laid off by the chief of staff (Patrick Strzoda) for two weeks, from May 4 to 19. Surprising.

The use of the passport known by the press

Finally, the Quai press release does not rule out possible prosecutions:

« Any use since then of these passports would have been made despite the commitments made by the person concerned. In view of the press reports tending to indicate that Mr. Benalla would have continued to use these documents, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is examining the follow-up to be given, including legal action. »

A series of unanswered questions

A priori, the authorities were not aware of the use of these documents and only learned about it through the press. Ultimately, the ministerial response raises as many questions as it resolves, which are of concern (administrative dysfunctions, leniency, etc.):

– Why was a second title issued for A. Benalla when he was on layoff? Who countersigned the diplomatic passport application?

– Why was the first title not released at that time? Was it lost or stolen?

– Why did the non-return of an identity document at the end of the mission of the former Elysee advisor only give rise to a single letter of injunction? Were there any other procedural acts? Otherwise why such laxity? Why is the referral to the prosecutor not already effective?

– Was there, for example, a report in the Schengen file, as with the British authorities (the person concerned now resides in the United Kingdom)? Etc.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Download the communicated from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (December 27)

Read also: Some observations on the Benalla case

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).