PARIS, Nov 24 (Reuters) - France's financial prosecutor has opened a probe into suspected favouritism and alleged illegal financing of President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 campaign, in connection with contracts with McKinsey, Le Parisien newspaper said on Thursday.
The prosecutor's office confirmed it had widened an existing probe into alleged tax fraud by consultancy group McKinsey's to include the role of consultancy groups in the 2017 and 2022 election races.
It did not confirm the probe targeted Macron's campaign, but said it was publishing its statement in response to the newspaper reports.
Macron's office said it had taken note of the probe, adding that prosecutors now needed to carry out their work "in all independence".
McKinsey has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
If confirmed that the probe targets his campaign, it would be the closest a judicial investigation has come to Macron, who swept to power promising to clean up politics in France. While Le Parisien said the probe targeted Macron's campaign, it did not say it targeted Macron himself.
Presidents in France enjoy immunity while in office.
An investigation does not necessarily lead to a prosecution or imply guilt. It can take years before such probes are either shelved or go to trial.
The financial prosecutor said the extended investigation had been opened in response to a series of complaints from politicians and associations.
"Following several reports and complaints from elected officials and individuals, a judicial investigation was opened on October 20, 2022," the PNF said. In particular it was looking at allegations of "improperly keeping campaign accounts" and the "undervaluing of the role of consulting firms in the 2017 and 2022 election campaigns."
A judicial investigation was also opened on allegations of favouritism and concealment of favouritism.
A McKinsey spokesperson acknowledged a request for comment sent by SMS but did not comment. Phone calls to the consultancy's head office in Paris went unanswered.
The use of private consultants by Macron's government exploded as an unexpected issue ahead of this spring's presidential election, in which Macron won a second term.
The opposition had accused Macron's government of spending too much on international consultancies that pay little or no tax in France.
That initial investigation into the U.S. management consultancy was triggered after the French Senate in March alleged that the firm was not paying corporate taxes in France.
Police raided McKinsey's Paris office in May in relation to an investigation into suspected tax fraud, the financial prosecutor's office said at the time.
"We have nothing to hide", Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt told a news conference in March. The government had also said McKinsey would have to pay all the taxes it may owe.
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