Benoît Quennedey: French official charged with spying for N Korea

image sourceAFP
image captionBenoît Quennedey is president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association

A French civil servant has been placed under formal criminal investigation on suspicion of spying for North Korea.

Benoît Quennedey is suspected of treason and "supplying information to a foreign power". He faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Mr Quennedey holds a senior position in the French Senate's department of architecture, heritage and gardens.

He is also president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association, which promotes closer ties with North Korea.

In recent years he has written books on the country, including North Korea's Economy: Birth of New Asian Dragon (2013).

Mr Quennedey has travelled several times to Pyongyang in recent years and met officials and academics working in the architecture and construction fields, according to his association's website.

Following his arrest in Paris on Sunday, he was questioned for 96 hours by France's counter-intelligence service.

Investigations into Mr Quennedey began a year ago, French media say.

Reacting to his arrest, Senate President Gérard Larcher said: "If the allegations against him were proven, this would seriously undermine the image of our institution."

Under France's criminal system, an investigating judge is charged with reviewing the evidence and can decide to close the case.