France's Rachida Dati blames 'plot' over expenses row

Rachida Dati Image copyright Getty Images

France's former Justice Minister Rachida Dati has hit out at "political plotters" in her own UMP party after it emerged auditors had rejected expenses claims of nearly €190,000 (£137,000) for items including luxury clothing.

Ms Dati gave a furious television interview denying any wrongdoing.

According to France's Le Point, the purchases included Hermes scarves.

The claims date to 2007-2010, during which time she was was justice minister under ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ms Dati, now an MEP for Mr Sarkozy's UMP party and mayor of Paris's 7th arrondissement, said it was normal practice to buy presents for foreign delegates.

A letter from the Cour des Comptes, which audits state accounts, lists €9,850 of unsuccessful claims - including hundreds of euros for pastries, as well as almost €1,500 on luxury gifts and more than €1,600 on clothes and accessories.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to run for president in 2017, made Ms Dati his justice minister in 2007

Another €180,000 spent on communications strategy was also rejected.

Ms Dati said the auditors had ruled against the justice ministry administration and not against her.

The auditors rejected the claims due to a lack of supporting documents and justification.

'Racist attacks'

"The ministry of justice has never financed my personal costs or bought me any item of clothing," Ms Dati told AFP earlier this week.

"The state auditor has never accused me of anything, either personally or professionally."

Speaking to the French TV channel iTele on Thursday, she attacked media coverage of the auditors' decision and said there was a political plot against her.

She said she had suffered racist attacks - being dismissed as an "Arab" - as well as sexism within her party, and that she had complained to Mr Sarkozy.

Ms Dati was the first Muslim woman to serve as a government minister in France. She has long complained of sexism and elitism in French politics.

She resigned as justice minister in 2009 amid criticism of her management style and gossip about her clothes and love life.

Correspondents say the UMP is keen to move on from a series of financial scandals, including an ongoing investigation into party funding, ahead of Mr Sarkozy's expected bid for the presidency in 2017.

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